NꙮW WITH MꙮRE MULTIꙮCULAR ꙮ

Open Thread 68.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever.

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695 Responses to Open Thread 68.5

  1. TenMinute says:

    Are you constantly culture-warring?
    Are you glued to NPR in fear of missing being rounded up for the 5-star Trumpencation Camps?
    Are you refreshing /k/ every 10 seconds to argue over the best caliber for rampaging antifa?

    Do you feel just a little silly? Maybe we should!*

    Why not take a week off from the culture war, and tell everyone how you feel about it? Post below if you want to participate in an experiment we discussed in Scott’s last post.

    Is the constant deluge of insanity and hyesteria in our media sources making us irrational and stupid? Will our emotional reactions to news change after a week of detachment from it? If you feel like you’re about to explode, does taking the firehose out of your mouth do anything to help?

    From Monday 6/2 to Monday 13/2, try to avoid reading internet news, watching TV, reading newspapers, or listening to talk radio.

    Write down something about your thoughts or feelings every day, or just keep up your diary like always.
    On Wednesday 8/2 (Open Thread 69.25), either post those or just some final self-reflection in the wrapup sub-thread.

    Hard Mode: don’t use the internet at all!

    If you’d like to try it, but can’t follow the “rules”, don’t worry: they’re more like guidelines.
    And if you can’t or don’t want try the challenge, why not post some questions or prompts for people to answer when we return?

    Good luck everyone!

    *It’s 5.56x45mm, people. You’re being ridiculous.

    • doubleunplussed says:

      Aw man, why’d you have to pick this week! The Australian Government might be imploding and I wanna watch!

    • It would be nice if everyone who tries to do that also reported whether they were actually able to do it. I know I couldn’t, which is why I won’t even try, but I’d be curious to know how people who attempt it will fare.

      • TenMinute says:

        I actually feel bad suggesting it to people who’ll probably have a much harder time with it. No TV makes that easy, and I don’t need an internet connection for work; not many people have that luxury.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        I quit reddit for about four months once. I didn’t quit anything else, but reddit was the lion’s share of my internetting. I was quite the addict so it was a big change.

        And honestly, after a while, even though the visceral need to check reddit had faded, I still ended up feeling super out of the loop, and didn’t have as many interesting things to talk to people about. I didn’t learn new things as often.

        I was able to focus more on detail-oriented work and hobbies, and I think it helped my psychological health for other reasons (I was better able to keep a sleep routine, which begets many other positives), but ultimately it seemed like a loss.

    • I disabled my facebook for about 3 months. Overall I felt happier, less stressed, and more optimistic about the world.

      Sorta biased though, because I reenabled during last weekends Trumpageddon event.

    • BBA says:

      You know, TenMinute, every year of my life I grow more and more convinced that the wisest and the best is to fix our attention on the good and the beautiful. If you just take the time to look at it.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I must be weird because I’m not glued to the news out of a sense of perpetual fear, but just because I want to. I like to know what’s happening before someone can figure out how to spin the political narrative properly.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Can’t do the hard mode this week due to work. Easy mode seems a lot like a regular week, so I’ll do that.

      I’ll do a hard mode week in April, two in July and one in September, the one in Sept will be extra-hard seeing as I’ll do with no electricity or running water, just me a few dogs and the wilderness. This ultra-hard mode is also known by the term ‘vacation’.

      And you’re wrong, it’s obviously 7.62×51.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Easy mode should probably rule out social media as well, there tends to be a lot of news mixed in the stream. Of course it’s a lot easier to avoid watching TV than to cut yourself free from the social media feeddrip.

      I can do easy mode as written, but I don’t think it will do much to detox me from politics.

    • Deiseach says:

      I would take this challenge, except I saw this on Google News and I have to ask this burning question:

      IS EVERYONE IN TRUMP’S ADMINISTRATION IRISH-CATHOLIC???

      I know it’s in advance of St Patrick’s Day when, in a venerable tradition, the politicians will emulate the snakes and leave the country and so the plámás is starting (this year for once I will be keenly interested to see the usual ‘Taoiseach toadying to the American president’ because I want to see if the universe will implode with Enda Kenny and Donald Trump in the same room*) but God damn it, Francine!

      Spicer’s family love their Irishness. His sister is named Shannon and brother Ryan. He has visited Ireland several times. On one occasion, the entire family travelled the island “like a pack” in a van, moving from one bed and breakfast to the next. He returned with a love (and sometimes cases) of Smithwick’s but settles for Guinness because he finds the former hard to find in the US.

      *I especially particularly want to see it this year because Enda will be on his knees licking up to the President interceding on behalf of the 50,000 Irish undocumented immigrants. Hey, will any of them lawyers at the airports be interested in taking on the oul’ pro bono case for pasty-white Christian-heritage people? Just wondering!

      I don’t think we should get special treatment, and I don’t think our government should be relying on other nations to solve our employment problems.

    • mingyuan says:

      I actually already do this (so I shouldn’t participate) and I’ve found it makes me a lot happier – both compared to my former self and to the people around me, who seem to be in a constant state of misery and disbelief. I was never much one for any news source besides the internet, but since last summer, when the election started to completely dominate the news cycle, I’ve actively avoided all sources of news – I have a blocker on my newsfeed and I deleted my Tumblr, so I honestly just never know what’s going on. I haven’t found this to impede my ability to talk to other people or to function in the world, but maybe there are other downsides I’m not considering?

      • Matt M says:

        I feel like, depending on your job, this type of thing could negatively impact one’s career.

        I certainly wouldn’t ever do it. People in my office, including the managers who will be deciding whether I get promoted or get kicked to the curb, love to discuss current events, including political ones. It’s less of a “I want to argue the superiority of my position to you” and more “I want to check and see that you are engaged with the world around you.”

        Entirely likely that sometime today, someone will ask me something like “So, did you hear what Trump said about immigration this weekend?” and while they don’t necessarily care whether I agree or disagree with Trump, the MOST wrong answer would be something like “no, I don’t watch the news” as it would signal some sort of combination of being uninformed, lacking intellectual curiosity, not caring about things outside myself, etc. Fine to happen a few times, but get a reputation for any of those things and you’re probably done.

        • Iain says:

          “No, I was following the news too closely and it wasn’t good for my sanity, so I’ve made a deliberate effort to tune it out” is a perfectly reasonable response, and it is clearly distinct from an overall lack of intellectual curiosity.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            it wasn’t good for my sanity

            Depending on where you are working, this is not OK to say.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s a better way of phrasing it sure, but still results in you drawing attention to yourself in a negative way. Why do I want to promote someone for whom following the news makes them insane? Especially when all of their relevant competition follows the news and doesn’t go insane from it.

          • Iain says:

            Sure, replace “it wasn’t good for my sanity” with “it was distracting me from my work” or “I decided to focus on my family” or whatever else would play well. The point is that there are ways to signal intellectual curiosity that don’t involve memorizing the details of Trump’s latest [travesty/triumph].

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Did you see that ludicrous display last night?

        • WashedOut says:

          May I ask what you do for work?

          I can’t say I relate to your experience of workplace culture at all, but maybe that’s because I work for an engineering consultancy – not a typically socially outgoing environment.

          I hope not everyone’s career progression/security depends on willingness to opine on current affairs around the water-cooler.

          • Matt M says:

            Management consulting. Relationships are everything. Being a partner is almost 100% selling, so to stay on promotion track in a pretty rigid pyramid, they have to be confident in your ability to engage people. Everyone is super smart, so you can’t really decide things based on that. Social skills and the so-called “airport test” end up being very important.

            Or perhaps I’m just overly paranoid about all of this because I’m a pretty extreme introvert and the prospect of eliminating an entire category of conversation strikes me as foolhardy. Maybe if someone is naturally good at casual conversation, it would be easy to find other things to discuss and wouldn’t be a big deal, I dunno.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The discussion of this seemed to talk about judges. Do you need judges? I’m probably incapable of doing this myself. Otherwise, I’ll just think of some questions to post.

      Also: I assume you mean Wednesday 15/2?

    • Spookykou says:

      I get the vast majority of my news from SSC!?!

    • Anonymous says:

      From Monday 6/2 to Monday 13/2, try to avoid reading internet news, watching TV, reading newspapers, or listening to talk radio.

      These terms are acceptable. I like obligations that don’t involve behaviour modification.

      *It’s 5.56x45mm, people. You’re being ridiculous.

      7.62×54mmR would be my pick.

      But any caliber is good when you’re a happy korean merchant.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I don’t really see Robert Gordon’s book as “liberal”. Sure, he mentioned inequality and education but that was all shoe-horned in at the last second without any strong evidence. People are trying to figure out how to spin the idea of low economic growth to suit their narrative but with the exception of the last chapter(almost always the weakest chapter in a non-fiction book), there’s not an obvious political theme.

    • Kevin C. says:

      For the five books to change conservatives’ minds:
      1. On Nordhaus, I’d point to Robert Murphy’s criticism of Nordhaus’s arguments (though not that book specifically) here and here [pdf].

      2. I’d like to note that rejecting “meritocracy” does not per se mean moving leftward. My favorite criticism is Justus Möser’s 1770 “No Promotion According to Merit“. He also notes, amongst his arguments, that meritocracy (note that Möser doesn’t use that term, as it wouldn’t be coined until almost two centuries later) erodes the “there but for the grace of God go I” understanding that is the base of noblesse oblige, and creates entitlement amongst those it raises and poisonous resentment in those it does not. But what is Möser’s alternative for “merit” in assigning “honors” and “promotion”? Seniority and noble rank. Recognition that “individual success or failure” depends less on individual merit and more on birth, family, and chance/luck/fortune is very much compatible with the view of the (often omitted nowadays) third verse of Cecil Frances Alexander’s Anglican hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful”:

      The rich man in his castle,
      The poor man at his gate,
      God made them high and lowly,
      And ordered their estate.

      (Also relevant: “The Fall of the Meritocracy, by Toby Young, whose father, Michael Young, coined the word “Meritocracy” in his 1958 The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870–2023: An Essay on Education and Equality.; note that the elder Young viewed it to be a negative, not a positive.)

      3. This is only a criticism of a particular strain of American “conservatism”; to a great degree, I agree with the argument as Sunstein describes it.

      He contends that whatever judges say, all of them end up as “moral readers” of such phrases — and so their own convictions must play a significant role. The question, then, is what kind of moral reading we will give, not whether we will give one. Dworkin raises serious questions about the notion of judicial restraint — and the very idea that judges can simply follow the law.

      Picture right-wing judges without “the notion of judicial restraint”, and whose “own convictions must play a significant role” in “what kind of moral reading” they give of the Constitution’s broad phrases. I don’t think many left-leaning sorts would consider it an improvement.

      4. As someone on SSI who has some lengthy stories about dealing with the bureaucracy, including being asked to fill out a packet of “complex forms” twice due to pure bureaucratic incompetence (luckily I made photocopies of the first submission). I also know someone who works in the library in one of the poorest regions in town and has worked with plenty of people seeking assistance navigating “the system”, and who paints a picture where those most in need of help from the system, and which the system is supposedly set up to help, often lack the mental resources necessary to navigate the bureaucratic labyrinth in order to get that help. None of this moves me leftward. (Reverse Weberian rationalization and bureaucratization, bring back personally appealing for aid to your local feudal lord or priest!)

      5. Well, see my comments on #2; HBD shows “equality of opportunity” has always been somewhat mythical, and social mobility in a “meritocracy” will always decline over the generations to the degree that “merit” correlates with heritable traits and assortive mating is a thing (see the Toby Young essay, or this by the late Henry Harpending). Note also that Trump supporters have also complained about at least some “rising inequality”. And how much of the “slow increases in educational attainment” might fit with something along the lines of Arnold Kling’s “null hypothesis in education”, and with the idea that the slowdown of increases in educational attainment is because we’re deep in diminishing returns territory, and most students are being pretty much as educated as they can be (which implies the “Voldemort View” of the “achievement gap”).

      In many ways, this looks like an argument against the “free market conservatives”, yes, but the alliance between social/religious right-wingers, “big business conservatives”, and pro-military “world police” types was always a bit of a “strange bedfellows” situation created by the existence of a common enemy in Godless Soviet Communism. But it’s been decades since the Iron Curtain fell; the rise of Trump and “Trumpism” seems to signal that this alliance is pretty well dead. And with more strands on the left shifting toward identity politics, and thus away from hostility to capitalism and markets, combined with more of the wealthy being “new money” who’ve passed through left-dominated academia, the “big business, free market” types look to have increasingly jumped parties anyway. And add the arguments along the lines of folks like Rod Dreher about how the things destroyed by the “creative destruction” of capitalism and the free market include old traditions and rooted organic communities.

      Edit: continuing on #5, if we accept the thesis that we’re in for a long period of low-to-no economic growth, by the standards of the rapid growth in the modern age, I’d like to point out what the past ages of slower economic growth, before the past few centuries, looked like culturally and politically. To what extent does reversion to older economic conditions drive, encourage, or require similar reversions in cultural and political conditions?

      I do think Sunstein made good choices for his five books to change liberals’ minds, though #2, the Scalia one, is probably the weakest.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Just as an aside, I find Möser a rather interesting thinker in general, and would recommend Jerry Z. Muller’s The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought for its chapter on him (chapter 4). And, though I can’t find a complete version online (the portion of Muller’s Conservatism: An Anthology of Social and Political Thought from David Hume to the Present reproducing it has a page omitted in Google Books), I would recommend reading Möser’s short 1772 essay “On the Diminished Disgrace of Whores and Their Children in Our Day” for an encounter with arguments which are at once comprehensible and yet alien, very much an example of L. P. Hartley’s “the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

      • Dabbler says:

        My views on each of these. Disclaimer: I’m not a conservative, I just don’t think these are very good at refuting conservatives who are willing to adjust their positions slightly.

        1, 2, 4, 5: What about a deontological conservative who maintains that libertarianism is a moral virtue, and that redistribution (or climate regulations) are objective moral wrongs regardless of a cost benefit analysis? Since this sort of deontology is considered acceptable in other things (say if this were rape or genocide we were talking about), why not here?

        A deontological hyper-individualist would in fact naturally come to this position as an extension of both ideas. It’s not particularly unnatural.

        3: What about the view “The American Constitution, by virtue of being un-interpretable, is morally bankrupt. Therefore it deserves abolition”? This argument could allow a conservative to keep a conservative style belief in Rule of Law and completely bypass Dworkin’s argument.

        ——————–
        EDIT: My parents were conservatives so I admittedly have a sympathy bias towards conservatives. But I’m going to try the other side in the interest of fairness. I don’t believe these arguments entirely, I’m just trying to show why they don’t show what they say they do.

        1: If I were liberal, I would counter:
        A: Local practices have plenty of empirical history regarding being harmful. Off the top of my head- harmful control of women’s sexuality.
        B: As technology improves, government’s capacity to regulate improves. Improved understanding of human psychology helps as well. We should take the future into account.
        C: Flawed as it is, without government practices to at least hold the country together we’d collapse into something far worse without economies of scale.

        ——————–
        2: How do we know that rule bound law is even possible? And assuming it is, why is it necessary? And assuming both, why do we assume we are getting the benefits when even lawyers don’t understand the law fully it is so complicated!

        If the change to the law over time is slow and predictable enough, why is it necessary for it to be truly constant?

        (Personally I despise that sort of thinker because I consider such a thing objectively unjust. But that’s just me.)

        3: What if there is a deontological Obligation to help people, regardless of the economic side effects?

        4: Authority, loyalty, and sanctity have proved harmful to human flourishing and happiness time and time again. The Western world, by discarding them near completely, has created a superior culture. Those parts of Western culture that involve rejecting those values must be spread.

        5: The problem with this is that this method offers no guard against so many things. Irrational prejudices, all sorts of abusive behavior, differences in looks, charisma, social status etc.

      • Chalid says:

        One response to your #4 is that a lot of the complexity in government bureaucracy is often imposed by conservatives, who really want to make sure that people don’t cheat the system by allowing “undeserving” people to receive benefits. In general, it’s conservatives who complain most about SNAP fraud, SSD fraud, etc.

        Reducing fraud is of course a noble goal, but it inevitably means creating complex requirements that people must demonstrate that they meet, which, as you say, imposes a significant burden on those who are meant to receive the aid (as well as costing money directly in terms of hiring people to enforce the requirements).

        Frustration with this dynamic is part of what drives the interest in UBI.

        • Wrong Species says:

          The “deserving vs undeserving poor” idea is not just about saving money. I don’t want to feed someone’s drug addiction.

          But you can’t honestly believe that UBI is going to save money compared to the current system. How much money do you think we’ll save in adminstrative costs versus the money we’ll spend giving a paycheck to every single American in the United States? And I’m incredibly skeptical that the old welfare system is going to be completely dismantled anyways. If it’s just an addition, then taxes are going to need to shoot up to pay for it.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species

            The Federal government currently spends something like 12k a year on various entitlements for every adult in the country. A decent UBI is possible with current expenditures.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            And how are the people who are getting those entitlements now going to react to the idea of diverting part of the money to people who aren’t getting those entitlements now?

          • Wrong Species says:

            @cassander

            For the sake of argument, I’ll take you at your word even though I’m skeptical. Now if we did a UBI and managed to not spend a dime more than we do now, how much of that has to do with cutting money to poor people and redistributing it to everyone and how much comes from savings in administrative costs? There is no free lunch.

            I see it ending two ways:

            Taxes go up enormously
            Or the government cuts welfare spending for the poor.

            Which is more likely to happen?

          • Chalid says:

            I don’t think anyone really claims that a UBI’s main advantage is that it would reduce direct expenditures, do they? Certainly I did not. It’s some combination of administrative efficiency, removing negative tax rates and other deadweight losses from compliance costs, greater freedom and flexibility for recipients, greater fairness and transparency, removing barriers to access for those who have trouble navigating the system, and keeping us all fed when the machines take our jobs and our skills are useless.

            (I don’t have strong feelings over whether UBI is a good idea.)

          • JulieK says:

            And how are the people who are getting those entitlements now going to react to the idea of diverting part of the money to people who aren’t getting those entitlements now?

            Indeed.
            How will it look when the media is running sob stories about the single mother who can’t afford to feed her kids anymore, while able-bodied childless adults are getting $12K?

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species s

            >how much of that has to do with cutting money to poor people and redistributing it to everyone and how much comes from savings in administrative costs? There is no free lunch.

            Very little from either, actually. the vast majority of the US welfare state transfers money from young to old, not rich to poor.

            Of course, I prefer a negative income tax to a UBI largely because it allows you to give more money to the poor and less to the rich, but that’s not really relevant to the discussion.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @cassander

            I don’t think that’s true for programs other than Medicare and Social Security. And there’s a good reason for those applying to the elderly.

          • Nornagest says:

            Medicare and Social Security make up almost half the federal budget and a large majority of money spent on entitlement programs. Medicaid, which is a means-tested program, is pretty big too, and would approach Medicare’s size if state expenditures were taken into account, but all other federal welfare programs are essentially a rounding error compared to these three. It’s basically correct to say that most federal-level welfare spending consists of transfers from… maybe not young to old, since the young generally don’t make a lot of money, but at least working-age to retired people.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @nornagest

            I think that just proves my point. Social Security mostly applies to those over 65, doesn’t really provide that much money and still takes up a large part of the budget. But it’s defendable. We don’t know want 80 year old grandpa to be forced to work in order to keep up his livelihood. And we don’t really care about disincentives to work because they’ve been working all their lives and retirement is something to look forward to.

            I don’t think 20 year olds should be paid to do whatever they want to do when there are people who actually need the money.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species

            >I don’t think that’s true for programs other than Medicare and Social Security. And there’s a good reason for those applying to the elderly

            Medicare and SS are like 70% of entitlement spending. And half of medicaid goes to people over 65.

            As for those reasons, they might be well and good, but the fact is that the elderly are richer than everyone else, so taking money from them and giving it to poorer younger people is not taking money from the poor to give to the rich.

            >doesn’t really provide that much money and still takes up a large part of the budget.

            It’s well over 13,000 dollars a year for every person over the age 65, or 3000 for every adult.

            >We don’t know want 80 year old grandpa to be forced to work in order to keep up his livelihood. And we don’t really care about disincentives to work because they’ve been working all their lives and retirement is something to look forward to.

            That’s why we give him a UBI.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @cassander

            “I prefer a negative income tax to a UBI”

            How is any particular “negative income tax” plan not mathematically equivalent to a specific “non-negative” progressive income tax plus UBI?

          • cassander says:

            @Kevin C. says:

            >How is any particular “negative income tax” plan not mathematically equivalent to a specific “non-negative” progressive income tax plus UBI?

            My understanding of most UBI proposals is that they’re inalienable. You can’t legally tax them, put leans on them, sell them, whatever. you just have a bank account, and every week the government sends you a check. But yeah, I guess you could achieve the same results as an NIT through taxes, sure.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @cassander

            Lets say that we wanted to give every adult in the United States a basic income of $1000 a month. That’s 12k a year. 12k times 250 million adults is 3 trillion. Social Security is somewhere around 800-900 billion dollars(You’re not going to get anyone to agree to cut Medicare). Lets add in an extra 100 billion because food stamps could be cut. Now where are we going to get the extra 2 trillion without cutting spending to the poor or raising taxes?

          • cassander says:

            @wrong Species says:

            >Lets say that we wanted to give every adult in the United States a basic income of $1000 a month. That’s 12k a year. 12k times 250 million adults is 3 trillion.

            the number of adults is closer to 200 million. And I was going to get the most of the other trillion from medicare. I don’t deny that it’s politically impossible, but so is cutting SS, that was never my point.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Spending on the poor” is 500 billion of the federal budget, maximum, and that includes Medicaid. You could cut that to zero, sell our entire military to the Russians, rent out our national parks to store uranium mill tailings, and stage cage matches on pay-per-view between US Senators armed with broken bottles, and you still wouldn’t be able to come up with $3 trillion.

            There is some possible financial jiggery-pokery involving tax brackets and nominal income, but I don’t think even that will get you there without substantially raising income tax rates or installing some kind of VAT-style scheme.

          • James Miller says:

            You won’t be able to politically cut Social Security to help fund a UBI as senior citizens would view Social Security as returning money they put into the system. Also, if you ended Social Security you would (politically) have to end the Social Security tax.

          • Wrong Species says:

            As 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are 242,470,820 adults living in the United States.

            Even if I wanted to go with your number, that leaves the cost at 2.4 trillion. So where does the 1.4 trillion come from? Medicare is a completely different beast. The only similarity is that they are both welfare programs. Basic income could plausibly replace Social Security. You can’t just gut Medicare and argue that basic income would replace it. It doesn’t work like that.

          • Cypren says:

            What about, rather than a universal basic income, we have a participatory basic income conditional on the surrender of voting rights? This strikes me as addressing two problems at once: the fact that any basic income we can afford to give everyone will be paltry and barely enough to live on, but there’s substantial moral hazard in giving a basic income sufficient to live a comfortable life to a subset of people who will then form a voting bloc to entrench and expand that entitlement.

            Creating an elective basic income that strips people of the franchise solves both problems. As long as you are receiving basic support, and for, say, 12 months afterwards (to prevent people from going off Basic right before an election and then hopping back on), you cannot vote. My guess is that anyone who is truly in need would take that deal in a heartbeat and not think twice about it. This measure is somewhat self-regulating, though. If it becomes too costly, such that the taxpaying citizens can no longer afford it, it will be reduced. And if voters cut basic assistance (or fail to keep up with inflation) to the point where it’s no longer a desirable tradeoff compared to subsistence work, they will get a large and angry voting block mobilized against them.

            I’m not aware of anyone who’s done formal studies of this concept, probably because we (foolishly, in my view) treat universal franchise as essentially a sacred matter in the western world and the idea of stripping the vote from the poor is unthinkable. But it seems to me that it’s an idea worth considering.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cypren:

            What keeps the voting public from abusing the vote-trading public? Further, wouldn’t this just make politicians care even less about the poor? This sounds dystopian as all-get-out.

          • Randy M says:

            Presumably people like yourself and other liberal/left commenters here who do support themselves but want to see increased public assistance. (edit: and for certain definitions of abuse, much of the rest of us as well!)

            It would certainly shift the equilibrium, but I don’t think it would get all the way to dystopia.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I wouldn’t categorize my views on public assistance as “should be increased” necessarily. It depends on where you are. In the US, for instance, public assistance is hugely expensive relative to what it accomplishes, and creates a great deal of perverse incentives, due to the various social-welfare programs being very poorly designed.

            Further, part of the reason those programs are poorly designed is well-intentioned people who don’t use and will never use those programs designing them poorly. Even if any significant number of people who can support themselves have the best interests of those who can’t in mind – and that’s a big “if” – there’s little indication they’re going to do a good job of serving those interests.

          • Cypren says:

            @dndnrsn: I think you’d need some form of nearly-immutable guarantee that the franchise terms of the program couldn’t be changed. (For example, say a system where Constitutional amendments require ratification of a 4/5 majority of the populace; then guarantee the duration and terms of the franchise suspension in the Constitution.)

            If the program was strictly statutory and the voting bloc could indefinitely suspend the franchise rights of the vote-trading bloc, then yes, I agree, you’d quickly fall into a dystopia. Otherwise, as long as the duration of the franchise suspension is reasonable, the regulation mechanism to prevent abuse is that the vote-trading bloc will stop participating in the program and reclaim their votes to punish the voting bloc if they make the program too uncomfortable.

            The core mechanism I’m trying to address with this proposal is that both groups have strong incentives at play: the taxpayers want to spend as little money as possible, and the vote-traders want to consume as much as possible. From a personal standpoint, I consider the moral hazard inherent in the second bloc to be far more dangerous than the first; given a choice between extremes, I’m way more okay with “anyone who can’t support themselves starves in the streets” than “anyone who doesn’t feel like working enjoys a luxury lifestyle paid for by forcing someone else to work on their behalf”. But I’m trying to suggest a way of balancing the two out.

            I also think that @Randy M is right: the voting bloc would contain a significant number of people who would want to avoid starving the non-voting bloc out of moral or religious principle alone, economic issues aside.

            Also, note that nothing in this program precludes the person finding a job and working to gain additional income. This program is literally a “vote buyback”, where the country is paying you to remove yourself from the political process. If you value your vote more than the income being provided, you’ll keep it. Otherwise, you’ll take the money. If too many people take the money, the few remaining ones will adjust the amount down until nobody wants to take the deal anymore. If too few take it, people who are borderline will likely vote the amount up in order to stop working their crummy subsistence jobs and relax. That’s why I think it would be self-regulating in practice.

          • Vorkon says:

            What about, rather than a universal basic income, we have a participatory basic income conditional on the surrender of voting rights?

            I would like to know more.

          • UBI is more than one thing, and in particular there are versions that do and dont involve additional temptation

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        1. On Nordhaus, I’d point to Robert Murphy’s criticism of Nordhaus’s arguments (though not that book specifically) here and here [pdf].

        From Murphy’s criticism:

        As Tol’s diagram quite clearly indicates, the consensus of economic studies finds that global warming would be on net beneficial to human welfare, at least through 2C degrees of warming (and this is relative to the current baseline, not to preindustrial times).

        It should be noted that Tol has had to heavily revise his paper twice based on mis-interpreting the other studies which he incorporated. His revised and updated multi-model estimate, which includes all error corrections and all new studies published since his original paper, shows consistently negative effects rather than an initial peak (FIG. 2). The only model left in his paper that shows such a peak is his own, and his latest revision now shows a peak at 1.1°C relative to pre-industrial, not to current baseline.

        (What I did not know before stumbling on that first link is that Tol changed “relative to present day” to “relative to pre-industrial” without noting it at all in the corrections. This has caused me to significantly lower my estimation of Tol, who I considered to be one of the scrupulous skeptics.)

        • For anyone curious, I have criticisms of Nordhaus’ arguments in various things he has written in a number of blog posts, in particular this one.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            By your own model, you should be very interested in how to assess the honesty of Tol right now.

        • I’m not sure what is going on with the “relative to pre-industrial” vs “relative to today” in the paper. Looking at Figure 1 in the original 2009 paper and Figure 1 in the 2014 correction, the clusters of data points are at about the same temperatures. That suggests that either “relative to today” was an error in the original graph or (less likely) “relative to preindustrial” is an error in the corrected version.

          In the former case, it should have been noted in the later version.

        • Controls Freak says:

          It should also be noted that a meta-analysis of papers that are each flawed in a known way was bound to be pretty much useless from the start. I mean, the very premise of a figure that has temperature on the independent axis and no axis for timescale is hopelessly doomed.

    • Art Vandelay says:

      I haven’t hardly read any of them but I’m fairly skeptical about the lists on the basis of his take on James Scott’s Seeing Like a State.

      For starters it might change liberal minds but it’s far more likely to push them towards left-wing anarchism than conservatism.

      I also find it amusing that the author of the lists assumes that Scott got his ideas about the limitations of central planning from Hayeck. I guess it’s probably down to the American quirk of assuming that Libertarianism is the default form of anarchism rather than a recent and rather marginal form except in North America. It seems much more likely that as a left-wing anthropologist he got his ideas from left-wing anarchists and the huge anthropological literature on stateless societies than from Hayeck.

      • Rob K says:

        I forget if I’ve said this here before, but Scott’s endorsed the idea that Seeing Like a State can be read as a companion volume to The Great Transformation. Polanyi talks about the ways in which marketization of everything conflicts with the actual nature of human society destructively; Scott extends that argument to show how trying to register society legible to top-down improvement projects can do the same.

      • cassander says:

        >For starters it might change liberal minds but it’s far more likely to push them towards left-wing anarchism than conservatism.

        In the book, which is excellent, Scott literally starts out with a forward that explains that he’s not one of those dirty right wing libertarians, and somewhat laments that they might like his book. If the author, who is a left wing anarchist, worries about it pushing people to the right, then it’s probably a decent concern.

      • James Scott has multiple references to Hayek in the book, in at least one case with an irrelevant negative slant. It’s clear that he does not want to be seen as supporting conservative views, less clear whether any of his ideas came from Hayek or others on the pro-market side.

        Reading the book is likely to push an intelligent reader away from left-center liberalism. It could do so in any of several possible directions. But while Scott may identify with a left-anarchist approach, his book on anarchy is much less readable and feels less convinced as well as less convincing than Seeing Like a State.

  2. HeelBearCub says:

    So, Omega was brought up a while ago and I went a few rounds. I don’t think much was really accomplished other than to determine that I would probably not make it as a Philosophy PhD and I annoyed Philosophisticat.

    I’ve been pondering some changes to the scenario. Perhaps the net is uninteresting, but I thought I’d post it anyway.

    You have been diagnosed with an uncurable cancer that will absolutely kill you in 6 months. At some point in your time at the hospital, you are ushered into a room, and asked to drink a glass of water. This is slightly difficult as the cancer in your throat is already making swallowing hard. You notice a piece of paper on the table.

    You are told about Omega, and that Omega has been asked to predict whether you will sign the piece of paper, accepting the large life insurance policy which will provide for your wife and children’s needs, when you die, something you had failed to do before now.

    If Omega predicted that you will not sign it, the water you already drank contained a new cure for the cancer that will dissolve the tumor in 30 minutes, giving you an extra year of life, and has a small chance of curing the cancer altogether.

    You are very torn and have trouble making a decision, agonizing over it. Unintentionally you take more than 30 minutes to decide.

    Is your tumor gone? Can you feel it’s absence?

    • Philosophisticat says:

      There isn’t enough in the description of the case to determine that, afaict.

    • Jiro says:

      For Omega to be able to predict your response with perfect generality will either implicate the Halting Problem or imply that there are certain algorithms you cannot execute to make your decision.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Yeah, Omega does not bestow His blessings on those who use unpredictable algorithms to make their decisions. If you want your cancer cured, try to be easier to predict!

        • HeelBearCub says:

          We can assume that you are easy to predict, just that you take a long time to make decisions.

          • Jiro says:

            “Easy to predict” is not well-defined, as you’ll see if you try to formalize it.

            (Note that “you are defined as easy to predict if you don’t implicate the Halting Problem” doesn’t work.)

          • suntzuanime says:

            I don’t think the Halting Problem is honestly that big a bar. For any X, it’s possible to solve the Halting Problem for all programs size X or less. So all you have to do is choose an X larger than what fits in the human brain, and it’s theoretically possible that Omega can solve the Halting Problem for all algorithms that a human could use.

            I’m more worried about decision algorithms that incorporate quantum randomness. Those we can’t reasonably expect Omega to predict, so we have to give Him an out of saying “okay, you perverse human, no cancer cure for you today”.

          • Jiro says:

            It may be that the proper algorithm for the human to use involves simulating Omega, and by making that restriction you have basically barred the human from using the best algorithm.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I don’t know why you think that’s true?

          • Jiro says:

            I didn’t say it’s true,. I said it might be true. It’s plausible enough that you have to be able to rule it out, and you can’t.

            Consider, for instance, the algorithm “simulate Omega. If the simulated Omega thinks you won’t sign the policy, and thus gives you the treatment, then sign the policy.” Otherwise don’t sign the policy. (Note that this is just an example–regardless of whether you can refute it, can you refute all algorithms of this type?)

          • suntzuanime says:

            No, I meant the latter part. Why would this stop a human from trying to simulate Omega?

          • eh says:

            For any X, it’s possible to solve the Halting Problem for all programs size X or less.

            This depends on whether humans are Turing machines, or whether we exhibit truly random behaviour. I don’t have a proof for it, but it seems intuitively true that the halting problem applied to a bounded Turing machine modified to give any symbol a tiny chance of flipping is no longer decidable.

            Of course, I have no idea what omega’s limits are. It’s a vaguely defined oracle-like being, so maybe it can predict truly random things.

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            @suntzuanime
            When you mean we can solve the Halting Problem for all Programs of size X, you mean Omega can, right?
            Otherwise, we could just solve the Collatz-problem, by checking if a program halts, that checks for all numbers, if they end in (1,2,4), by counting how many lines the program has.
            I’m not sure, why Omega could do this, if Omega is just defined as ‘being the closest thing to a Laplace demon’. If he’s super powerful, then I’m okay with that (I think). Which Omega definition are we using here?

            @Jiro
            Yes, I think the strategy of person b would be an example of ‘a certain algorithm you cannot execute to make your decision.’

          • suntzuanime says:

            What I mean is that such a program can in principle exist, in contrast to a program that solves the halting problem in general, which cannot even in principle exist. I feel like the whole question of Omega’s capabilities is a giant missing of the point, since the essential paradox doesn’t require Him to perfectly predict your actions, just predict them well. But even within this giant missing of the point, I think Omega’s not as impossible as He’s being made out to be.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Consider, for instance, the algorithm “simulate Omega. If the simulated Omega thinks you won’t sign the policy, and thus gives you the treatment, then sign the policy.” Otherwise don’t sign the policy. (Note that this is just an example–regardless of whether you can refute it, can you refute all algorithms of this type?)

            “Simulate Omega” is kind of an ambitious thing to use as a single step in your algorithm. We pitiful humans are not going to be able to simulate Omega with the same level of fidelity that Omega simulates us. I feel like any algorithm of this type, which relies on a human mind being larger than Omega and able to outwit Him, is going to fail in practice.

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            @eh
            Well, humans are not Turing machines, but why wouldn’t a sufficiently big Turing machine not be able to simulate a human (or the physics of a bag of sand, for that matter, both are just a bunch of matter in space, interacting with each other according to some physics engine). I don’t see, how the source of randomness is nothing more than a hidden stat, that might be impossible to find out. Just why would this randomness only appear in a human brain instead of a stone or our huge Turing Machine, that also wonders about the same thing? What can we do, that a TM could not?

            @suntzuanime
            If Omega could decide the Halting Problem for each TM of size X or less, that implies, that the Halting Problem can always be decided for any machine.
            I don’t see it proven however, that every Halting Problem has (even in principle) an answer. Maybe I missed that in my Complexity lecture.

            As far as I understand it, it might be impossible to prove (or disprove) Collatz (or any other number of hard problems). I guess if your statement is true, Omega would just use an automatic theorem solver for everything and be done with it. He would just need infinite processing power, nothing fancy.
            But if we should prove that Collatz is unprovable (or undisprovable, as it were), then we would know, that there is not even in principle, an algorithm that solves all Halting Problems for the minimum size of a brute-force Collatz finder or bigger.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Of course every individual Halting Problem has an answer. Either it halts for all input or it doesn’t.

            Your claim is about the process used to generate a program that solves the halting problem for all programs size X or less. Clearly there can’t be a general process that does this for all values of X, because such a process would solve the general halting problem, which is impossible. But that doesn’t bear on claims that the output can exist. We’re talking about whether or not Omega is logically impossible, not proposing to actually build one.

        • Don_Flamingo says:

          If assuming, that if there is an answer for a halting problem, then there must be a proof for that answer as well. That proof must be finite. Thus it can be found by a relatively simple TM using a Theorem solver to write random strings and checking if it’s a proof.
          Thus we have an algorithm to solve every Halting Problem, iff there is an answer for every Halting problem.
          And Omega could prove everything immediately with just infinite computing power (logically possible).

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automated_theorem_proving#Decidability_of_the_problem
          Though, after reading through this, I’m not quite sure there is an answer for every halting problem. I don’t really have a good grasp on the whole Gödel incompleteness theorem, yet.

          • suntzuanime says:

            If assuming, that if there is an answer for a halting problem, then there must be a proof for that answer as well.

            That assumption does not hold. Lots of things are true but can’t be proven in a given system.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > That assumption does not hold. Lots of things are true but can’t be proven in a given system.

            True for systems that are a superset of Peano arithmetic, i.e. are infinite.

            For finite systems the proof does not really apply: a 1-bit Turing machine with 1= halt and 0 = loop can be solved with zero bits of state.

            The true restatement of what you suggested is that no single system with fixed finite capacity can prove all true facts about all arithmetic-supporting systems with an arbitrarily large maximum value.

            Which is not at all the same thing.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yes it’s true, some things that are true can in fact be proven.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A Turing machine has an infinite tape by definition. The halting problem is incomputable for Turing machines of two states or more, so it is not true that it is possible to solve the halting problem for Turing machines below an arbitrary size.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Humans don’t have infinite “tape”, and they can’t accept infinite inputs, either. My whole point is that because humans are bounded, it’s theoretically possible to reason about them in ways that you can’t reason about idealized Turing machines which might be called upon to run programs of arbitrary size.

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            @suntzuanime

            So you’re saying, that if we only look at a subset of TMs (humans) with a Gödelnummer of less than G (|neurons| * some factor), the tape being less than T (all necessary information needed to completely describe our observable universe) and taking only inputs of less than n (same bound as T), it is (theoretically) possible to solve the Halting-Problem for all of them? That sounds doable. I agree.

            Anyway, I don’t get all this stuff about true, but unprovable statements, yet.
            I’ll take a look at this again, when doing ‘Complexity Theory’ next semester.

            Thank you all for all the input and the discussion. It was fun.

    • registrationisdumb says:

      Against all odds, Trump, Brexit, the Cubs and the Patriots all win their respective contests and a random statistician now has a tumor that looks suspiciously like the one I just had 30 minutes ago.

      This still says nothing about my decision or whether or not I still have a tumor, but I can’t feel it’s absence because I don’t tend to notice that sort of thing which is why I only just found out about the tumor in the first place.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I only just found out about the tumor in the first place.

        I think you are just being flip, but this is not part of my thought experiment. The setup was supposed to make you understand that you definitely feel the tumors presence.

        • registrationisdumb says:

          Half-flippantly making a joke about how statisticians are having a bad year, half arguing that an overly specific statistical hypothetical is often solving the wrong problem, half being deadly honest that I’m the type of person who would stupidly write off a major medical problem as some minor annoyance until it gets serious enough that it kills me.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      @HeelBearCub
      Premise A: Omega can predict the money/noMoney decision of an actor.
      Premise B: we take it for granted, that noMoney -> cure and money -> noCure (thus Money logic. equivalent noCure).
      We look at two actors a and b, who always both wait 30 minutes (intentionally or not, does not matter).
      Both will always act with the following strategy, “If I’m cured, I’ll take the money, anyway.”, so in case of ‘cured’, they would choose ‘money’. Since we are assuming, that both premises are correct, both actors could therefore never have been cured in the first place.
      After 30 minutes, both actors would notice, that they are uncured:
      Now actor a takes the money (he was correctly predicted).
      Actor b however wants to force his cure by paradox and decides not to take the money. For actor b therefore the prediction was false (not-A is true) or the money-condition was false (not-B is true).
      If A and B are true however, we know that anyone, that is made this offer cannot be a type-b personality.

      If you know yourself to be a type-b and ever find yourself in that situation you therefore know, that premise B is false. That doesn’t matter however, because if you wouldn’t take no money after 30 minutes (after no cure), you wouldn’t be really a type b in the first place and that couldn’t factor that into your decision.
      A type b, that recognizes himself as a type b before the choice (even before the waiting) and then makes a different choice (by not waiting and/or choosing the money if he’s not cured) would by definition not be a type b and lost any informational advantage.

      A person is of course either a type b or not. The person just might not know it yet. That might make it hard for a person to (pre)commit to the b-strategy knowing all this. (When not getting cured) Person b acts either out of spite (forcing the paradox) or if he’s a thoughtful b, he will willingly take the worst outcome (no money and noCure) just to disprove for himself the silly non-sense of premise B or finding out, that he was just imagining his throat cancer still being there after the choice (and be cured after all) (he’s still a b, but premise B was not (necessarily) wrong, it just appeared to be).
      Or maybe he gets cured after 30 minutes and he knows that premise B must be wrong (but so does an a).
      Premise A cannot be disproved by that tactic.

      You have some more information, if the hospital claims, that the Omega can predict the choice correctly for all humans, because then you know with almost certainty, that there must be a type b somewhere represented among humans and you know immediately that A or B must be false.

      Edit: I can’t make the logically equivalent sign with less-than/minus/greater-than. It just ignores all three characters 🙁
      Edit: I’m actually wondering, if we need Omega/premise A at all here. We can’t falsify a the existence of a god, only premise B.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      “Unintentionally you take more than 30 minutes to decide.”

      The rest of the post doesn’t really clarify why this matters, and in general it feels like you’re missing something here. Or I am.

      • Loquat says:

        You drink the possible cure before being presented with the conundrum. The cure is supposed to take effect after 30 minutes. Result: you now know whether you got the cure, and can freely take the money without worrying about losing out.

        Meanwhile, as an insurance agent, I went on red alert the moment someone promised to write a large life insurance policy on a person expected to die within 6 months. Unless you know for a fact that you’re the protagonist of a lighthearted crime caper, there’s no possible way such a thing ends well for you and yours.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Eh. It’s fully funded with the cash that would have been used in the other Omega experiment.

          I could have made it a $1M in cash, but I don’t want the problem to be about you getting cash.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I’m trying to preclude the objection that you can’t intentionally try and “defeat” Omega.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          Eh.

          edit:

          after thinking about it more, I withdraw this comment, and may God have mercy on my soul.

        • Don_Flamingo says:

          Since either ‘noCure and noMoney’ or ‘Cure and Money’ is always a chosable option in your scenario it’s like saying that Omega can predict perfectly well, whether you will in the next room kill yourself with a revolver or overdosing with pills in the next room (both things lying on the table), when there’s a perfectably delicious cheeseburger you could eat instead (and not die at all). If Omega can predict that choice correctly for every human, then humans really hate cheeseburges these days or he forced them into suicide, somehow.
          If it’s the former, then I’m really impressed by his remarkable psychological insight (I would never have guessed). If it’s the latter, well of course you can confuse a little kid with the old ‘stop hitting yourself’-schtick.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Since either ‘noCure and noMoney’ or ‘Cure and Money’ is always a chosable option in your scenario

            I’m not following this.

            Assuming that Omega predicts you will not sign, you get the treatment (Cure). It’s not clear to me how “noCure and noMoney” is an available choice.

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            So, if this prediction has been made for you and you feel your cancer gone, what’s stopping you from taking the money, as well? But if he predicts that behavior, you will not be cured.
            Now if you notice you’re not cured, you might want to screw with Omega rather than taking the money. So you don’t sign the policy after the 30 minutes.
            If you do neither of these things he still might have predicted your choice, but he cannot predict everyone’s choice without making them make that choice.

  3. Dr Dealgood says:

    So I have a bit of an ethical quandary I’d like help unraveling:

    The lab I’m rotating in is in the process of getting an article published in a high-impact (>30) journal, and both the lead author and the PI are eager to get it pushed out the door. The thing is, a reviewer asked the “wrong” question and they’re worried that it will delay publication if they respond to it honestly.

    The pathway they sketch out in their manuscript is incomplete, and they know it. They have unpublished data which suggests an additional role for one of the proteins involved and they are capable of following up on it. But they don’t want to do the experiment because it would take more time and is “a pain in the ass.”

    They can’t say that what the reviewer wants is out of the scope of the paper, because it obviously isn’t. And if they show the data they’d been holding back and/or do what he wants the obvious next step is to follow up on it properly and revise their manuscript. So they want to just ignore the question and hope the reviewer doesn’t call them out on it.

    I’m not an author on this paper, or even a full member of the lab yet, so it’s not my ass on the line whatever they do. But it’s very nearly the precise opposite of why I got into science: the idea of deliberately concealing an interesting scientific question fills me with disgust and anger.

    So what can / should I do?

    TL;DR: How does one deal with not quite fraudulent but definitely dishonest researchers?

    • Aapje says:

      Send an anonymous mail to the journal? If you didn’t complain too loudly it’s unlikely to get back to you.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Well, I think the ethical ideal would be to politely voice your concerns to the authors of the paper in the most level-headed and non-accusatory manner you can muster, and then let them proceed as they see fit. Because you are not an author, the final decisions belong to them, so whatever ethical failures they commit are theirs. If you were an author, you’d have more moral responsibility, but on the other hand, more agency to actually to hold your ground, do those experiments and edit the paper.

      But lots of how good idea the above route is depends much on how good is your grasp of the social dynamics of the lab. I wouldn’t dare if I wasn’t absolutely sure any persons involved would not hold it against me. I probably would do as you, and anonymously complain on the internet…

    • suntzuanime says:

      Isn’t this the whole reason why you have a section at the end of a paper calling out further work that could be done? You are allowed to say, “hey there’s this thing that would be good to do but we didn’t do it, somebody should do it”.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        It depends on the journal, from what I’ve seen anyway.

        A lot of the higher-end journals seem to want a story and get frustrated if you give them one which sounds incomplete. It’s one thing to say “we’ve uncovered X, but now further research on y and z are needed” but another to say “we pretty much figured out X but somebody else with more patience will have to run this assay to get the last 10%.”

        I did suggest something like that though: putting the data they have in as supplemental figures and rewriting the discussion section to reflect that. But the PI hated the idea and I wasn’t going to push the issue at that moment.

        • Well... says:

          In that case it sounds to me like you’ve already done the right thing to the fullest extent that can be reasonably expected.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Thanks. I’m still mulling things over in terms of my options, but it’s reassuring to hear.

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah, I definitively wouldn’t blame you for not taking it further. You are at the limit where you are pretty much safe. Any step further potentially opens you up to being run out of the field. You can minimize that risk, but we don’t live in a world where whistle blowers get hailed as heroes by the community that they blow*.

            * Sorry, couldn’t resist.

          • Well... says:

            Thinking about it more, I’m surprised the researchers are so opposed to putting a “Suggested further research” type section at the end of their publication. Not only is this a pretty standard thing to do, but it’s hard to fathom a paper being taken seriously without one especially in a top-30 journal.

          • Aapje says:

            If the expected response by the journal is: do that research and then get back to us; it makes perfect sense.

    • Deiseach says:

      First rule of bureaucracy: COVER YOUR BACKSIDE

      If you blow the whistle on this and it comes out that you’re the one who did it, you may face consequences. At the very least, the people wanting to “push it out the door” will be highly displeased and will give you a rotten evaluation/recommendation when you move on from this rotation. If you get the reputation of causing delays like this, in the world we live in which is not the ideal world, instead of being praised for helping good science to flourish you will be “that guy”, the one who sticks a spoke in the wheel.

      Is there anyone else you can talk to in the lab before taking it outside? Can you encourage/persuade the lead two to re-think? Are there other team members who think this is dodgy but are afraid to speak up, but if they know they’re not the only one, they might all band together?

      The only option besides that is go to Da Boss, whomever that might be: there must be someone higher up who has to take notice of this. Unfortunately, that leads back to “oh a troublemaker” as at the start.

      I suppose the cynical but practical thing is, if it’s not your ass on the line, just keep your trap shut, let them deal with any fallout that may happen, do your time and move on 🙁

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        After having slept on it, I think that if I do anything it will be Aapje’s suggestion of an anonymous tip to the journal.

        I’ve talked to some of the other folks at the lab and it seems like I’m not the only one thinking this is sketchy. I know at least one of the techs and postdoc are trying to jump ship and they both have warned me away from joining the lab. Nobody is going to push back against the PI directly but it seems like this sort of thing has been costing him good people.

        And yeah, I agree that it’s not good to get a reputation as the millstone around the team’s neck. If it was my paper I’d fight a lot harder but I’m not in a great position here.

        • Deiseach says:

          Sounds like they’re cutting off their noses to spite their faces; if the informal word around is “you don’t wanna go there, they’re kinda sketchy”, that will hurt them more in the long run than delaying one paper.

          • Aapje says:

            I will hurt them, but that doesn’t mean that it will get fixed. As Dr Dealgood said, the ethical techs and postdoc are looking to leave, so that leaves the less ethical. So you get a feedback loop that preserves/increases the bad culture.

            As far as I can tell, Dr Dealgood has done as much as possible from the inside, which is not enough. So the only realistic option for change is to call in people with authority over the lab.

    • James Miller says:

      If the paper gets published, and you have a friend outside of the lab in the field, suggest to this friend that he write a paper on why the published paper was flawed. Also, update your beliefs into thinking that this kind of dishonesty (really fraud) is probably commonplace in your field, and have less trust of published results there.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Since starting my scientific career I’ve already seen some stuff. For one thing, I no longer believe in “representative images” or any variation thereof: that hideous blot that looks like someone swept the floor with it is likely the very best one that the lab could produce. But this was new.

        I really hope this isn’t normal behavior.

      • Also, update your beliefs into thinking that this kind of dishonesty (really fraud) is probably commonplace in your field, and have less trust of published results there.

        My conclusion when, long ago, I was in a somewhat analogous situation. It’s probably one reason I am more skeptical than many about “this article shows that” stories.

    • +1 James Miller.

      This is par for the course. The way people on SSC or Andrew Gelman-type-blogs are opposed to this stuff is REALLY WEIRD. We are a tiny minority. What you’re experiencing is mainstream science in action.

      If you blow the whistle on this, assume you will never work in this field professionally. Your best bet, I’m sorry to say, is to accept this as par for the course and work to get to a place where when you’re the one calling the shots, you do it the right way.

      While I ended up leaving academia, I have literally written scripts that run 20-30 regressions (let’s say of Y=X+e), where theoretically all the X series were capturing the same proposed phenomena, but each one was generated by a different person and their version of that series dynamics. All that to say, we were writing automated scripts to fish for p-values. I felt gross.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      Tell the reviewer in private that you’re planning to do another paper with that experiment and that you really need an additional paper for tenure consideration, or something along those lines.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        The reviewers are blinded: I only know the guy as “Reviewer #3.” I’ve heard that people can figure out who their reviewers are sometimes but I don’t even know how to do that.

        I could contact the journal itself, but that’s a different kettle of fish.

        • Aapje says:

          If the paper is sufficiently advanced, the reviewers generally come from a rather limited group of peers. Most people have writing peculiarities that a perceptive person could recognize or one could even use software to figure out the author.

          PS. This is also why, if you whistle blow, it’s better to keep it short and bland.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Exactly. A few sentences to the effect of

          “Psst, the pathway in this manuscript is incomplete. I really think you should ask about the role of [protein].”

          Or even just those two sentences. I would add that if worst comes to worst you can write a letter to the journal to that effect AFTER publication under a false name and return address. It probably wouldn’t be published, but it might at least draw attention to the issue.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      So I’m guessing you were raised by robots. Robots who worship Science.

      In the real world, nobody thinks their sketchy shit is sketchy sketchy, just something they should be cut a little slack for because grant money is tight and we just lost another postdoc and nobody has time for this assay and there are about ten ways it can get screwed up and set us back a week and….

      Look, the real world is high school, the PI and his co-author are the captain and biggest guy on the football team, and you just walked in on them accidentally setting a pile of paper on fire while smoking pot in the A/V room. You have about three options:

      1) Inform someone in authority of their misbehavior.
      2) Ignore their misbehavior.
      3) Join them in their misbehavior (if they’ll let you).
      4) Mitigate their misbehavior with heroic effort—smothering the fire with your body or something (how am I supposed to know? I’m no hero).

      You really want to go for (1), informing the journal or the referee, because robots. Everybody else seems to be recommending either that or (2), keeping your head down. It would be intellectually dishonest of me to pretend (3) isn’t an option, but you’d never do it anyway.

      (4) is the one nobody seems to have covered. What if you volunteer to do this pain-in-the-assay? Even in your free time if it exists. At worst, you fail, and maybe get some points with the authors (who will of course never publicly acknowledge the failed attempt). At best, you succeed, make them honest, remove a source of stress, and get your name on a good paper (>30!). I don’t see much of a downside in at least offering.

      (BTW: are there any parts of the Real World that are like homeschool?)

      Anyway, this is the reality of Science. We’ve pretty much ruined it with institutionalized idiocy and over-reliance on crappy metrics of researcher merit. All is lost. All is lost. All is lost.

      • Aapje says:

        I see that 4th option as very unrealistic, for starters, Dr Dealgood will need help from the authors to do so. So it will still cost them time.

        But more important is the psychological aspect. Doing that research is effectively telling the world that the researchers are incompetent and/or lazy. It will be seen as a status lowering hit to their reputation and as such, resisted strongly (and Dr Dealgood will be extremely resented for even offering, exactly because it is hard to object based on rational grounds). Putting people in situations where their socially unacceptable motivations become exposed is one of the best ways to make enemies.

        There is a solid chance that he will be kicked out of the lab due to the chain of events that such a proposals sets in motion.

    • Cheese says:

      Coming to this late, but personally i’m not really sure I actually see much of a problem with their approach.

      Before I expand on that, I pretty much agree with nimim.k.m.’s idea. Even an anonymous complaint to the journal is risky. Most people tend not to realise just how well people in certain fields know all the important people in their fields, and things do get around. Not ideal, but reality.

      Anyway, without further context i’m not really sure there’s an issue here. They’re publishing a pathway they know to be incomplete? So what? That’s about 50% of the papers out there. Are they not planning to follow up on the protein’s additional function, or not indicate that there may be a potential for it to be involved in said function? Because if they are, or if they are making it clear I really don’t see any issue with it in the context you’ve outlined.

      Papers are not meant to be these immutable perfect things that aren’t superseded. The economic realities of science means you need to get it out the door fucking fast. I’ve personally been scooped by better equipped labs working on similar stuff and you really do need to push these things out the door. I don’t really view it as a failure if a paper doesn’t cover everything it should in a comprehensive manner. The fact that others have told you to avoid this lab may mean that there is a stronger thread of misconduct happening here but again, not so much seeing the issue if they do in fact plan to follow up on it.

  4. Maxwell says:

    Little known fact: Dan Quayle is younger than Donald Trump.

  5. Jitters says:

    New here, so apologies if everyone’s already seen this article, but what do people think of Nate Silver’s defense of his model? He basically says that the polls were off and that his model did the best it did with what it received, and put the actual result well within probability.

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-fivethirtyeight-gave-trump-a-better-chance-than-almost-anyone-else/

    I really know nothing about statistics, so I can’t tell if – as he says – he should be vindicated for giving Trump a much higher chance than most pundits did, or if he’s just trying to excuse himself.

      • Deiseach says:

        Oh God give me strength, I see FiveThirtyEight is doing soccer predictions.

        I had a look at their predictions for forthcoming matches and the Liverpool vs Spurs one is killing me because yes.

        43% we should win it? Yes. Because Spurs are a decent team and we play well(ish) against decent teams. Against teams like Hull (third from the bottom and facing relegation), we get beaten 2-0.

        I have just had a look at their prediction for Liverpool vs Burnley and no. Because they’re giving us 71% to win. But (a) this is Burnley which is not a top team so we’ll play badly against them (b) we’re currently on a losing streak, go us! why expect things to change in March? Please note they gave us 72% to win against Hull and we didn’t, though that will go into re-defining their model.

        Great. Now I’m going to be following a prediction site as well as matchday coverage just to add to the agony. “Hey, FiveThirtyEight say we should win this pulling up! Oh great, we’re going to get hammered!” 🙂

        Now, what’s interesting is that they’re giving Barcelona 25% to win the Champions League final, which kind of lines up with Paddy Power giving 7/2 for the same result. The bookies seem inclined to have Barça as the favourite so that’s not far out. We’ll have to wait and see do they call this any better than the election!

        • Matt M says:

          Morbid curiosity about European sports allegiances – but how does an Irish person end up a Liverpool supporter?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            At this point, the Irish are addicted to suffering, I think.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            The Irish football league is terrible- very few Irish people appear to support an Irish team compared to the number who support English teams. Liverpool and Manchester United are the most popular English teams among Irish fans, probably because of their proximity to Ireland.

            (Liverpool was considered a “Protestant” team for a while, but this was mainly because their local rivals Everton signed a lot of Catholic Irish players in the 60s and they didn’t. The rivalry between the two clubs is nothing like the actually-sectarian rivalry between Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Short(ish) answer – my mother, God rest her, was the sporty one in the family and used to follow GAA, soccer, rugby, horse racing, show jumping, etc. My father was pretty much only interested in boxing (which meant we got woken up at ungodly hours of the morning to watch Muhammed Ali’s bouts when our national TV station was showing them) and later Wimbledon tennis.

            So back in the 70s when several of the Irish national soccer team were Liverpool players* (e.g. Steve Heighway), young little me absorbed this by osmosis – which was ironic, as my mother was a Manchester United fan. (Side-note: this is also why I am really, really glad Jose Mourinho took up the United job. I couldn’t enjoy their downfall under van Gaal, it felt too much like laughing at a blind man falling down. But under The Special One, I can sit back and enjoy the schadenfreude to my heart’s content).

            Liverpool happened to be hitting a rich vein of form right about then, winning all around them, so if I had wanted to be bandwagon jumping, I picked the right team. (Manchester United’s time was yet to come). And having picked a team, well. You stick with them, through the bad times as well as the good. And heaven knows, there have been a lot of bad times since. (I tuned in to the telly to watch the match at Heysel. That… made me give up watching or following for a while. But I came back).

            (Except Istanbul. That was a miracle. No way – no way – we should have won that. Five times and this is the fifth!)

            I can’t say I’m a real fan, because I don’t have the in-depth knowledge. But the team of losers I follow when I want my heart broken are and are always going to be Liverpool 🙂

            *Why was the Irish national team composed mainly of English or at least British players? The granny rule because, as AlphaGamma notes, the League of Ireland is very small and we don’t have enough, and good enough, players to field the team out of our own resources (not if we want the quality of player to compete against other national teams). So Irish footballers who went to England and Scotland to improve their chances of playing for better clubs, and English-born second and third generation Irish who played for big teams like United and Leeds and Liverpool get picked. This was a wildly successful strategy under Jack Charlton, who got us places we’d never been before in European and even World Cup football.

          • Deiseach says:

            Istanbul. Oh my God, Istanbul. What is there to say that has not been said already? I think some of the Milan team are still bitter eleven years later and I can’t blame them. Everybody thought they would win it and would be the deserving winners.

            I actually switched away at half-time because I was convinced that was it. Playing AC Milan? Going in 3-0 down? That was it. There was no reason they couldn’t come out and do the same in the second half, and we hadn’t shown that we were capable of playing at their level.

            I tuned back in near the end to hear the result, hoping we’d maybe got a goal back, or at least that it was going to end 3-0 and not 5-0 or something. Only to hear the announcer that it was going to penalties.

            So I’d missed the entire second half comeback 🙂

            (If Steven Gerrard had never done anything ever again in a Liverpool shirt, this one match would be worth all his reputation).

            But it was worth it – I’d slandered poor Djibril Cisse in the first half (I believed I yelled “You carthorse!” at the telly when he missed a chance) and I then had to eat my words when he scored one in the shoot-out.

            But I was glad to do so, you can believe it!

          • Matt M says:

            Fun. I count myself as the odd soccer-enjoying American, although I “buy local” and spend most of my time and effort on keeping up with MLS. Attending road games as member of the “Timbers Army” is the most fun I’ve ever had at a sporting event (even if the entire exercise consists of pretentious upper-middle class American hipsters cosplaying as working class Brits for an evening).

            To the limited extent I keep up with European soccer I also support Liverpool, mainly as an artifact of frequently playing as them in Fifa 98 for the Super Nintendo (they had bright red uniforms and were really good – what’s not to love?)

            Also I observed a rather large and spirited debate last night as to whether the Falcons choke in the Super Bowl was worse than Milan in Istanbul. I side that Milan is worse because soccer is lower scoring and you should be able to more easily “park the bus” as they say and hold onto a large lead than in American Football, where the way you play defense does not (or at least should not) largely change based on an early lead.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Well, he should be vindicated relative to most pundits. His model missed, but not as badly as other people’s models. If there is a model that consistently misses less badly and hits better than his, we should use that model and scorn his.

      The real question is, how much of his failure was his model being dumb vs. how much of his failure was due to elections being hard to predict. And we can get some sense of that by looking at how well other people predict elections compared to him.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        I think the real question is: if elections are hard to predict, why is our current model, like the model inside my brain and yours, to follow a model which admittedly has a too-high failure rate, as if it’s extremely accurate?

        It’s fair enough to say that his model is more accurate than other models, including mental models which don’t incorporate any numbers. But doesn’t that just mean that our personal models should all be “it ain’t over till its over”? If elections can’t be predicted, then they can’t be predicted.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I don’t understand the question. Of course it’s not over until it’s over. When you give one of the outcomes a 70% chance of happening and the other a 30% chance, you’re explicitly saying it’s not over. You’re explicitly saying you’re not extremely accurate, because no matter the outcome you won’t have given it more than a 70% chance of occurring.

          Maybe the problem is that you’re thinking in binary terms, either elections can be predicted or they can’t. Rather, the question you should be asking is, with what degree of accuracy can elections be predicted? It’s clear that Silver’s model doesn’t predict elections perfectly. Does it predict them better than chance? So far it seems to, he made an extremely confident correct prediction in 2008 and a confident correct prediction in 2012, which outweighs a less confident incorrect prediction in 2016.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            I don’t think my post gives the impression you got, but fair enough, I’ll restate. The answer to this question, in my eyes

            with what degree of accuracy can elections be predicted?

            is “not enough to pay attention to polls as much as we currently do, by like a lot”.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Well, keep in mind that if we measure “correctness” by “closeness to actual vote margins” as opposed to “predicted the winner,” the polls were worse in 2012, so that might be worth two strikes.

            I think Silver did better than most, but there are horoscopes out there that were more accurate than most, too.

    • Urstoff says:

      Models like this and their evaluation seem meaningless to me. The model says something has a 29% chance of happening and then it happens…so the model is wrong? What does that 29% even mean? If it’s just subjective confidence, then I’m not sure what makes one model giving a measure of subjective confidence better than another. If it’s a frequentist statement, the counterfactuals seem incredibly underspecified: we run this scenario a hundred times and 29 times Trump wins, but what do you mean by “this scenario”?

      I get that this is a basic problem with any model and all probabilities, but it seems particularly egregious for these models.

      • Iain says:

        The claim of the 538 model is: “Given the information on which this model is based, the chance of Trump winning is 29%”. Over time, if the model is well calibrated, then it will get 90% of its 90% predictions right, 80% of its 80% predictions right, and so on. (There is obviously only one presidential election every four years, but roughly the same approach is used for House/Senate/primary races, which can help with calibration.)

        Moreover, a model’s success is not binary. Consider the hypothetical world in which about a hundred thousand more people voted for Clinton in the necessary places, and after the dust had settled and the recounts were complete, Clinton was president. Even in that world, the 538 model would have been clearly better than Sam Wang’s model (which gave Clinton a 93% chance of victory). Put simply: Trump’s victory was well within the 538 error bars. Given the number of models that had completely counted him out, that counts as a victory for 538.

        It is also relevant that 538 was pointing out issues like the fragility of the “Blue Wall” well in advance of the election. It’s not just that Nate Silver deliberately predicted a broad range of possible outcomes so that he could claim victory regardless; 538 was also ahead of the game when predicting the details of what a Trump victory would look like.

        Prior to the election, I had my suspicions that 538 was (probably not consciously) talking up the likelihood of a Trump victory to drive up page views. I am no longer concerned about that. At least for now, 538 seems to be at the top of the polling model heap.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          That’s fair, and it does annoy me that people go “haha, your probabilistic model didn’t get the higher-probability outcome, you’re such an idiot”. That’s a mildly fair criticism at people like Sam Wong, who tossed Hillary a 99% chance of winning, but outside of that it’s an obvious nonstarter.

          Still, my personal view is mostly encapsulated in my above reply to Suntzuanime: polls shouldn’t be so central to our personal prediction models. I think that’s worth talking about in greater detail: not if someone is the best at polling, but is he good enough to pay attention to?

          • Iain says:

            I endorse suntzuanime’s response to your above reply. It’s not like we have anything better than polls to follow; Nate Silver was quite vocal about his mistake in the Republican primaries, where he trusted the (previously quite reliable) “Party Decides” thesis over the polling numbers. To the extent that we care about predictions at all, 538 is pretty clearly good enough to be worth keeping an eye on.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            It’s entirely fair to say that we have nothing better to follow. But my point is that most people underestimate the degree of uncertainty heavily as a result of polls. Maybe we need to re-calibrate our levels of uncertainty, and relegate political candidate polls to whatever roles they are useful in, such as measuring shifts of opinion as a result of events.

          • Iain says:

            Okay, but what concrete change do you think we should be making? Are we supposed to just stop trying to predict the outcome of the election?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            No idea. Maybe?

            or at least maybe stop being so sure about it. I really don’t know, honestly.

          • suntzuanime says:

            He gave his prediction at 70%! How is that ‘so sure’?

            That’s a criticism that you could reasonably give to Sam Wang, but not Nate Silver.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Who the hell spoke about him? I’m talking about ME, and you, and everyone else. Why be so certain that the poll has correctly captured reality?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Why be so certain that the poll has correctly captured reality?

            Uh, we’re not. I’m not, are you? I’m following Nate Silver, whose model explicitly accounts for the possibility that the poll has not correctly captured reality. Obviously you can’t just treat polls as guaranteed accurate, that would be a totally stupid thing to do, but people don’t do that. If nothing else, one poll often disagrees with another, so clearly they can’t both correctly capture reality.

      • dodrian says:

        The percentages come down to uncertainty, and as I understand it they are an estimation of the confidence those behind the model have in their prediction.

        In statistics there’s an amount of known uncertainty: given a random sample of size n it’s easy to calculate how far the population P might deviate from the sample (someone who uses statistics more frequently than I could easily supply the formula from memory).

        Then there’s the unknown uncertainty, it’s a lot of factors but it essential boils down to pollsters being unable to get a truly random sample (eg., if they use random phone calls it will bias away from people who don’t own phones and towards people who have multiple lines, or there’s a self-selection bias where some people will simply not respond to polls, or there’s the people who outright lie for whatever reason). Statisticians use models based on past elections to try and account for these biases, but there will inevitably be more error introduced.

        Then there’s the added complexity that a US presidential election is actually a weighted result of 51 different races, though with the exception of extremely close races (like this past one) this usually makes the overall result easier to predict.

        The percentage given is a confidence prediction – an attempt to quantify the errors in the model rather than to say that if the race were run multiple times these are the outcomes you’d expect (as you say, that explanation doesn’t make sense). Random-sampling error is very easy to quantify, biased-sampling error much harder, but if the polls were showing that even die-hard Republicans were planning on voting Democrat en masse, statisticians would be able to predict confidently a Democrat win. If the polls showed a lot of indecisiveness, or they knew they were not reaching a certain demographic the statisticians would be much less confident in their predictions.

      • Understanding this stuff within a counterfactual framework is actually pretty tough. The people below gave explanations based on confidence/sampling frameworks, but that is — to me — distinct from a counterfactual framework.

        It is possible though if you don’t mind getting a little scifi. Let me explain how:

        Within election forecasting it’s true that for any one-shot election you can’t truly say whether you were right or wrong. All that you’re left with then is to look at the series of your predictions over time, and assign them a score (how Tetlock does it).

        The idea here is that there is some factor behind forecasting elections that is similar. That’s not too surprising, the problem space behind election forecasting shares strong similarities, whether it’s the US presidential election, or a local election in Italy, it’s the same concept.

        In this first counter-factual framework, we can imagine the counterfactuals as the latent similarities across all these elections over time. This requires the ‘hard’ assumption that they are similar enough to satisfy a counterfactual framework. If you aren’t willing to accept this, you’re back at square one, where you are unable to verify what it could possibly mean for a forecast to have been correct.

        In a more ideal scenario, there would be some methodology m*, which is both sufficiently abstracted, as well as explicit, such that it could be run on every election that ever existed. This of course doesn’t exist, and we don’t have the information to do it. But in theory it could exist. This methodology could then be refined as a model, and also as the information set it consumes, to eventually approach a perfect classification of every election. This would still run into the same issue though that it is fitting to a latent factor underlying all elections, and couldn’t map to fit any idiosyncratic aspect of the most recent presidential election.

        If that assumption still is unsettling, you can then jump to the multiple worlds approach. In this case you choose some set of times prior to the election, and spin off n alternate universes. At each time you specify an expected probability based on your model, and then let all the universes run concurrently and see if the realization maps to your model prediction.

        Of course, the challenge here is we need to introduce some variation into each spun-off universe. Otherwise they will all just proceed perfectly according to Laplace’s Demon (or you can mumble something about quantum mechanics? No clue). So you have to perturb each alternative universe in a way that doesn’t directly effect the causal inference of interest. For example, if in one universe the perturbation was someone shot Clinton, that’s no longer useful to your counterfactual simulation. On the other hand, if the perturbation was someone kicked over a cactus in Texas, which caused a chain of reactions that ended up with Clinton crashing in a sky-diving accident, that would be acceptable. The goal here is to inject some background variance into these counterfactual simulations, which no reasonable person would ever expect to have a clear causal mapping to the election itself. After all, the model you are testing is trying to filter out a clear signal where possible, and then appropriately estimate uncertainty distributions for the parts of the universe it *cannot know* and is not expected to know.

        The challenge here of course is that what the human mind considers to be causally interesting, doesn’t clearly map to some intrinsic aspect of the universe. So, as far I’m aware, there is no concrete rule for what perturbations are or are not acceptable in the simulated counterfactual universes.

    • dodrian says:

      Current Affairs did a takedown piece on Nate Silver after the election.

      The gist of it is that while Silver is a good statistician, he makes the repeated mistake of blogging/tweeting like a political pundit, then attempts to fall back on an “even the best statisticians can’t account for X Y & Z” defense when those predictions come out wrong (the implication being he should have spent more time pointing out the problems in his models than musing over deeper meanings).

      My favorite Nate Silver quote from the article:
      “Each of these outcomes now about equally likely: —Clinton landslide (8+ point win) —Obamaish win (4-7 points) —Narrow Clinton win —Trump win”

      I think I get what he’s trying to say with that (75% Clinton win), but it sounds incredibly weaselly.

      • After following Silver for a while, and knowing a fair amount of methodology, I’ve come to the conclusion that his process of constructing a probabilistic model is actually consistently good, even though he also blogs like a pundit. Like, you might think of because of how he writes his stats would be biased in some way, but it really doesn’t seem like it is. *shrug*

        • Matt M says:

          He has help, right? He’s not a literal one man show. So conceivably, he could be a good writer with some data scientist locked in the basement, or he could be a good data scientist with a great editor to help him with the blog posts?

  6. R Flaum says:

    Can someone recommend a way of getting exercise that isn’t incredibly boring? I find that getting regular exercise is hugely beneficial to my mental health, but would like to find a method that isn’t just mindless repetitive motions. Taking up a sport would seem ideal, but I’m having trouble finding an opening for me.

    • Ivy says:

      I feel the same way; the two solutions I’ve found are:

      1) Listen to podcasts / audiobooks while lifting weights. You won’t be quite as into the lifting, but at least you won’t be bored.

      2) Group sports – unless you live in the middle of nowhere there must be a beginners soccer/frisbee/volleyball league near you. Good way to meet people too.

    • Dahlen says:

      Dance. Inventing your own choreography is creative mental work as well as physical exercise, and a vigorous dance session can leave you breathless in the same measure as jogging, almost.

    • Jugemu says:

      If lifting weights is boring you you’re probably not lifting heavy enough. I don’t know if there’s a way to make it fun though (for a typical person).

    • dndnrsn says:

      By “having trouble finding an opening” do you mean on a team or something like that? If that’s the case, try taking up a martial art. Ones I have experience with: judo (in North America, at least, at a hobbyist level tends to be at rec centres run by volunteers, cheap but schedule is inflexible) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (at a hobbyist level, tends to be run by professionals, schedule tends to be much more flexible – eg my gym has morning, noon, and evening classes, but much more expensive than judo). If you prefer punching/kicking, muay thai seems to be in the same boat as BJJ (and a lot of gyms that do one also do the other).

      I used to be really fat and out of shape, got into judo, picked up BJJ (eventually switched into it entirely – judo is harder), started lifting weights (which I actually find to be semi-enjoyable), and now spend ~10 hours a week in the gym. So, it’s clearly worked for me. Maybe it will work for you?

    • lvlln says:

      I love ultimate Frisbee. Easy sport to pick up regardless of fitness or skill level, non-contact, and very good at getting you to burn a lot of calories as it requires a lot of running in order to do well. Also very cheap, since all is needed is a field, cones, and a disc (also cleats are useful both for safety and performance). The community tends to be very welcoming to newcomers, because it’s such a niche sport. If you can find a pickup game around where you live, you could try going to one and see if you like it. If you live in the Boston area, I know of several.

    • James Miller says:

      Exercise while watching TV. I have weights, medicine balls, a stepper, and a mini-trampoline in the room I watch TV.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      Is there pickup ultimate frisbee near you? They tend to be relatively laid-back and friendly and open to new players, and it doesn’t really cost anything to start. It’s also a ton of fun!

      If you have a bunch of money you’re willing to spend and there’s a club near you, you could try fencing.

    • A possibility I have considered but not seriously investigated is some hybrid of video game and exercise. I believe “Dance, Dance Revolution” qualifies, but I’m not a dancer. Some of the new VR systems do, but they require expensive hardware and space to use it in. There are some combat games that work with an ordinary computer and some sort of sensor for how you are moving, but I haven’t actually tried them.

      • Nornagest says:

        Wii Fit was super popular a few years ago. I assume there’s some kind of modern equivalent, but I’m kind of out of the loop on the console scene.

      • Loquat says:

        We have a Playstation Move and a pack of sports games which includes gladiatorial combat. A few rounds of that makes a pretty good workout, and a really committed nerd could make it a better one by adding wrist weights or something to mimic the effect of swinging a 4-5 lb sword rather than a sub-1-lb game controller.

    • With regard to an ordinary sport, I did judo as a kid and through college. Since then, the one sport I have been seriously involved in is SCA combat–medieval combat, most commonly with sword and shield, using real armor and fake weapons, which makes it possible to really fight.

      I don’t know where you are, but there are SCA groups in a lot of places and the hobby is interesting for lots of things other than the combat as well.

      I no longer do it, but that’s mostly because I am getting old and somewhat fragile.

    • quanta413 says:

      If you have access to a rock wall, I’ve found rock climbing great after failing at the typical run, lift weights, bla bla; I’m pretty motivated to go to the rock wall at the gym to do it because it’s both fun and good for me. It’s pretty good for upper body strength and balance, not so much for your cardio. Rock climbing also involves a pretty decent amount of enjoyable thought but nothing tiring, trying to figure out the sequence of motions you are capable of making, how to balance in weird positions, etc. It’s like a combination of puzzle and exercise.

      And I’m someone who was/is scared of heights, so as long as you aren’t out of your mind terrified, I’d at least give it a shot.

    • sixo says:

      If you’ve never been to a climbing gym, try it three times. Ideally with a friend. Three because the first two times you’ll suck so much you’ll wonder if you’re in the right phylum.

    • WashedOut says:

      Rock climbing.

      I find it a very mindful activity in that it’s possible to go into a world where it’s just you and the wall, the sensations on your fingertips and various fleeting tensions in muscles.

      Having said that there’s plenty of scope for being as ‘bro-ish’ about it as you want. At one end of the spectrum there’s the speed/competitiveness of sport-climbing; at the other the careful deliberation of trad climbing.

    • One thing to consider is that while finding a non-boring exercise is a good thing to try, you can also try optimizing on another dimension, which substitutes higher-intensity or more efficient exercises so you get more out of less time.

      I’ve been pretty intense about exercising for a while, and I can get more out of 12 minutes alone in an empty room than you would get out of sitting on a bike for 45 minutes. With high intensity stuff like squat jumps, burpies, pushups, jump rope (etc), you become too exhausted to even think about being bored.

      Another thing I do is lift weights for 30 minutes. But not mindless, goalless, dumbells. I follow stronglifts.com. Essentially, depending on the day, I’ll do 2-3 lifts, with 5 sets and 5 reps of each, with 2-3 minutes in between each set. Yesterday I did deadlifts and benchpress for about 30 minutes while listening to Taleb’s audiobook ‘Anti-Fragile.’ The cool thing here is because you’re lifting very heavy weights, you need to take long breaks in between each set.

      In total I spend about 4 hours a week working out, switching between very heavy weightlifting while listening to audiobooks, and extremely high-intensity but shorter 20 minute cardio/body workouts.

      The amount more I get out of this, say compared to a slow jog, sitting on a bike, or uninspired weight lifting, is ridiculous.

      I also do it 85% for mental health reasons. When I was younger I always felt I had mental health issues, and went on and off a handful of psychiatric drugs. Once I took up boxing/working out, I was able to stop them all (over time).

  7. JulieK says:

    What do you think of fundraising marathons and the like? (In which person A runs a race or does some other challenging activity, and B, C and D have agreed to donate if he succeeds.)
    I see a lot of ads trying to recruit participants, saying things like “Have fun, and help our cause!” It seems kind of silly. The best explanation I can think of is that if a cause is important to A, then B, C and D would want to donate, either because they respect his judgment, or just to make him happy. By running a race, he signals that he values the cause, so they don’t have to just take his word for it.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Signalling doesn’t seem very useful as an explanation here.

      Bake sales, marathons, fundraising dinners and the like are events. People can meet there, have some fun, and give to a good cause in the process. It’s a lot more enticing to donors and volunteers alike than a dour Singer-ian speech about drowning children.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        i think it’s two things

        firstly is the idea that you get something for donating

        secondly and entertwined is the jokingly sadistic idea of “run a lot of laps”. A fair amount of charities have success with that idea – Child’s Play, for example, involves volunteers playing a very boring game for ever-increasing amounts of time based on the donations, and the entire thing is live streamed.

    • rlms says:

      I think that the main cause is that running a marathon or whatever is hard and makes the participant feel like they’re doing something useful (even though the difficulty of the race and the usefulness of the charity aren’t related).

    • Matt M says:

      I’ve always thought these things were pretty dumb and make little sense.

      If you’re soliciting me to donate to a worthy cause, my decision on whether or not to donate will be based on my evaluation of the worth of the cause. Wrapping it up in some confusing mechanism like “donate $X for every mile I run in this ultra-marathon” just seems distracting to me. I don’t really care whether you run a marathon or not. Or at least, whatever interest I have in you running a marathon is completely and totally disconnected from my evaluation of the worth of breast cancer research…

    • The Nybbler says:

      In the ones I’ve been involved with, for most of the participants, it has little to do with the charity and more to do with the event. I know several people who just paid the minimum donation themselves rather than do any fundraising. The charities have organizations that can put together large events (closing down bridges, roads, etc) that the sporting groups couldn’t dream of.

    • There are less calculated explanations. Humans evolved such that our ‘reward’ for helping other humans isn’t stimulated that well by going to http://www.charity.com and filling in our CC info. Our reward was based on (I speculate) the physical act of helping a person, seeing their approval (gaining social status), sacrifice, and the tribal accolades of this work.

      The whole run for money thing is a modern simulation of our ancestral brain’s reward mechanism for altruistic behavior. We get the tribal benefits, we get to go do *something physical* etc, we push ourselves into uncomfortable situations etc.

  8. Dabbler says:

    I have heard claims that Trump’s apparent failures are exaggerated because the media want to try and make him look worse than he really is. Is there any truth to this?

    • suntzuanime says:

      Well, there’s a little truth to it, but many of his apparent failures are actually outright lies because the media want to try and make him look worse than he really is.

      • Dabbler says:

        I would very much appreciate any education you can give me on this point. Of the most popular apparent failures, which ones can you expose as illusions? Do you know of any particular links I can go to?

        I’ve heard claims the travel ban is a complete lie already- that Donald Trump was doing something very similar to what other administrations do anyway.

        What about the claims that Trump is too lazy and spends his time watching TV? Do you know anything about those?

        • suntzuanime says:

          The travel ban I would class more under “exaggeration” than lie. The Obama administration did something similar, but on a smaller scale and without the legal residents on airplanes being turned away, which makes Trump’s thing substantially different.

          I haven’t heard the specific claims about Trump being “too lazy” you’re referring to, but it sounds like a particular genre of article we’ve seen a lot of lately, where they cite an anonymous source to to give them a basis for publishing nasty rumors about Trump’s presidency. Some of those have been actually debunked, like when they claimed the pick for Secretary of Energy didn’t know what the department did, or when they claimed Trump threatened to invade Mexico, but the nature of http://pastebin.com/xL8jmS69 is that the falsehood goes viral with people who want to believe it and any correction won’t spread because people don’t want to know. And it’s hard to debunk claims that Trump is “too lazy”, because that’s not a hard and fast fact but a judgment call, but we also can’t just take them at face value when they come from an anonymous source filtered through a news organization that’s looking to print anything harmful to Trump without regard to journalistic integrity.

          • Dabbler says:

            Thanks. Is there anywhere I can go for further information? I would like to know a lot more about what is actually going on in the United States.

            Frankly, my respect for Donald Trump would have gone up if he had threatened to invade Mexico over the Wall. It would have been a show of good faith with his electorate- that he was going to get Mexico to pay no matter what.

            Do you know what actually happened with the Wall and Mexico?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Here’s a link about the Department of Energy story, Reason has their own spin they push pretty hard but you can factor out the facts: http://reason.com/blog/2017/01/19/new-york-times-publishes-fake-news-about

            My understanding is that Trump proposed to make Mexico pay for the wall via a tariff on Mexican goods, then walked that back. Presumably somebody sat him down and yelled at him about tax incidence. It’s not clear yet how the whole business is going to be resolved, but I doubt it will be with an invasion of Mexico.

            I would also like to know more about what is actually going on in the United States. I am used to having to factor out people’s spin, but the mendacity of the news organizations seems to have really ramped up lately and fishing out nuggets of truth is getting more and more exhausting.

          • Dabbler says:

            Thanks. I’ll start checking out Reason and see how it goes.

          • suntzuanime says:

            No no no no dear god don’t do that! You can’t trust Reason either, they were just a specific source for one specific claim. I apologize if I gave you the impression that they were trustworthy in general. In general there is no easy path to the truth and you have to constantly pick apart ideologically motivated deception.

          • Dabbler says:

            Crap. This is harder than I thought. I’ll have to try something else then when I have a bit more time.

            EDIT: Frankly, I’ve never learned the habits of thought necessary for that kind of scrutiny. Or how to do it. So this is going to be HARD.

          • Jordan D. says:

            If it makes you feel any better, neither has anybody else. The world is full of obviously extremely-smart people saying really stupid things.

            (Here’s a fun exercise for you- read that Reason article and the NYT article it’s based on, then go watch or read a transcript of Perry’s confirmation hearings, which happened shortly after those articles are published. How many statements can you find that support the stance that he did or didn’t know what the DoE does? The answer may make you despair of ever knowing the truth!)

            In my experience, what you want to do when confronted with a big story is this:

            1) Read the primary source, if any. Ex: Trump’s travel ban is a relatively short document, and you can go read that and decide yourself whether the things it describe sound like a good idea.

            2) Find something that looks well-sourced to add to it. Ex: If I hadn’t read the reporting surrounding the travel ban, I wouldn’t have realized it applied to green card holders too, so the primary source would have betrayed me.

            3) Try to find something reasonable that is also critical of the first source. Ex: Many of the stories I first read about the travel ban cited a federal statute which prevents discrimination based on national origin in immigration to show that it was illegal. Luckily, I know from experience that ‘I found a statute that looks kind of contrary, case closed’ is a bad legal argument. While reading contrary opinions on why the EO might be perfectly legal hasn’t convinced me one way or the other, it did satisfy me that the matter’s not settled.

            4) Get tripped up anyway because truth is a hard thing. Ex: During the last week there have been a lot of scattered and confused reports that various agencies have been ignoring various federal orders, etc. On that basis, a lot of people who have never encountered administrative law declared that Trump was ignoring court orders, that we were in a Constitutional crisis, and that it was either impeachment or fascism forever. It’s still not clear exactly what happened, but I would bet on ‘confusion from within and no clear directions from above’ rather than ‘the end of liberal democracy.’ Most people have neither the time nor the means to get exposure to administrative law and understand that delay and confusion happen all the time without evil dictator scheming, so your only protection here is to say, “claims that civil order have dissolved require extraordinary evidence instead of a lot of yelling on Twitter.”

            Now I can take all of that and say, “The travel ban, which I thought was a bad idea, was being implemented in a way that is worse than I thought. I don’t know if the executive order was legal, but so far it probably hasn’t caused the destruction of our civil government.”

            Okay, so what about all the other, related stories? What about:

            1) “Did Trump run this through a legal review?”
            2) “Was this the brainchild of Bannon, rushed past without input from the Priebus camp?”
            3) “Do Trump’s tweets on the subject undermine trust in the judiciary?”

            And et cetera? Well, the truth of the matter is that I don’t really care. I’ve already made my evaluation as to the order, and whether it was properly reviewed or the secret plot of Bannon is icing, not cake. I will not be able to ‘discover the truth’ of those stories, because they’ll all be based on anonymous sources and one-liners from statements made, published exclusively by outlets that don’t like Trump anyway.

            (The exception are the tweets, which I can go read for myself. I won’t, because Trump’s twitter feed has yet to add anything of value to my life and will probably continue to fail to do so, so I see no real reason to go remind myself how much I hate it.)

            TL;DR – you have some hope of figuring out what’s up with major events that everyone can agree did at least happen, but you should be warned that you’ll get tripped up anyway. You should ignore all news that sounds too gossip-y; if it ever gets enough sources to amount to anything, it’ll stop looking like gossip pretty fast.

          • Deiseach says:

            Most people have neither the time nor the means to get exposure to administrative law

            Certainly this when it comes to any kind of state body. When a new piece of legislation comes along and percolates down to the minions on the ground, it does not happen that all the old stuff is junked and we immediately switch to the new rules. First there’s comparison between the old and the new to see what’s changed. Then there’s a lot of “What the hell does this mean???” when you find a contradiction and asking around, often involving ringing similar bodies in other counties about “Hey, you saw the thing, what are you doing? Yeah? Us neither”, and equally often “We’re gonna hafta refer this to the union because I’m not at all sure we are the ones who should be doing this”, and very often “we need to get onto our legal advisers for clarification of this wording”, and finally ringing the Department to get a ruling about “okay, so does this part mean that we do/don’t award a decision now where we didn’t/did award a decision before?”

            And then eventually after every council in the country has rung the Department, we get some kind of “yeah, this is what you’re supposed to do” which often boils down to “keep doing what you used to do unless it’s a very exceptional case”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jordan D:

            I’ve already made my evaluation as to the order, and whether it was properly reviewed or the secret plot of Bannon is icing, not cake.

            I agree with much of what you wrote, but this is wrong in my eyes.

            There is a consistent line though the executive order, public statements made by the administration, and reporting of behind the scenes operations. That consistent line is one of dysfunction.

            My view is that the super-majority of the work of the federal government is fairly mundane, but also very consequential. Keeping any large organization running something like well is a difficult task. Dysfunction poses a great threat.

            I’m not sure how many people here agree with this line of thinking. But I think it is a large mistake to think that the iceberg that you see is the whole or even the majority of the mass.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            My understanding is the Obama administration put a temporary hold on one country (Iraq) because the military was leaving and therefore a different agency would be responsible for vetting immigrations, and they needed time to get up to speed.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            Dysfunction poses a great threat.

            In a large, powerful organization (GM, say, or the EPA), this is certainly true. However, so is this:

            Function poses a great threat.

            Consider: just how competent do you want the NSA to be at spying on everyone? Or the local sheriff’s office at catching people going 57 mph? Or the IRS at… well, noticing your existence?

            Last year, my large organization lost out on a bunch of (marginally) free training slots (for something we’re eventually going to need to train people on anyway) because half the people who signed up for the training failed to get a travel authorization, HR found out, and HR did their job as written by telling them they couldn’t attend.

            Now, the would-be attendees didn’t consider the need for a travel authorization because the training was at their usual work location, but that’s neither here nor there.

            We need human error, human judgement, even human corruption to save us from the very stupid but very non-boxed AIs we’ve already constructed on distributed meatware.

          • Controls Freak says:

            just how competent do you want the NSA to be at spying on everyone?

            Literally no one believes that that is the definition of the NSA being “functional”. Instead, being functional is spying on the people who they have a legitimate reason to spy on to the extent that their reason justifies.

          • Cypren says:

            @Machina ex Deus: You’re essentially constructing a false dilemma between “dysfunctional government which fails to enforce bad laws” and “functional government which enforces bad laws”. There is also the option to have a functional government and remove the bad laws.

            We could set reasonable speed limits and then enforce them, rather than setting them 20% under the expected driving speed and then leaving it up to cops to arbitrarily decide who to punish.

            We could have clear and understandable tax laws instead of a giant unintelligible mess where drawing the scrutiny of the IRS is a near guarantee that you will be punished because they need to find something to charge you with to recoup the cost of the investigation.

            We could demand clear accountability from our politicians who are supposed to be supervising the NSA instead of accepting vague promises of “security” as good enough.

            These are things we have collectively as a society chosen to ignore or not make a big deal of. They are not constants in the functioning of the universe.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @Cypren:

            You’re essentially constructing a false dilemma between “dysfunctional government which fails to enforce bad laws” and “functional government which enforces bad laws”.

            I was trying to highlight that there are circumstances where dysfunction is preferable. I freely admit that there are many examples of functional government doing good things, and dysfunctional government doing bad things. But I’m starting to believe large organizations can’t even hold together without some dysfunction, and that some dysfunction in the mix saves us from horrific results.

            (I’m talking broadly about all large organizations, not just government, by the way.)

            There is also the option to have a functional government and remove the bad laws.

            This is a thing that everyone’s sure about, except for me. Laws, rules, regulations, policies—they’re all formal systems, and we tend to think of “functional” as “obeying the rules”. And if we know anything about formal systems, it’s that they get very weird when they get past a certain size or power: even Peano arithmetic is incomplete. An analogous situation in, say, administrative law would be a case where the judge can render a decision that is correct (“true”) and consistent with all the regulations, but be unable to give a sound argument (“a proof”) for it.

            It’s possible that bad laws (or rules, or regulations, or policies) are not entirely removable—not because we’re flawed human beings or lack the time or inclination to remove them, but because of mathematics (which I take to be a constant in the functioning of the universe).

            We want formal systems of a certain power, and you can’t have that without some problem with the system: bad rules, or unmakeable arguments, or inconsistencies in the rules, or a subset of rules which can’t actually be referring to anything real (“has no model”).

            Maybe we can only get the properties we desire with simpler sets of rules than we use now. Maybe we can only have HTML rules, not Python ones.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Laws, rules, regulations, policies—they’re all formal systems

            This is very not true, which is why the rest of your comment falls into the general category of, “If a person on the internet tries to apply Godel’s incompleteness theorem to something that is not math, they’re wrong.”

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            Well, on the face of it, USC and HR policies and even the rules of Ultimate Frisbee look pretty formal. What disqualifies them, in your view?

            I realize that they are not currently executed formally, in the way a program runs on a microprocessor. My main argument is that that’s a good thing, because not being faithful to the formal rules saves us from them. My main warning is that we’re slowly-but-surely automating the execution of many of these formal rules, and our assumption that “the computer will follow them perfectly” is true but a bad thing.

            (I don’t know why this point is so obscure: there have to be like seven episodes of Star Trek (TOS) that touch on it.)

          • Controls Freak says:

            You need to know what a well-formed formula looks like and have a decision procedure for determining such. Even the Russell and Whitehead of law didn’t set out with the hope that they could actually reduce law down to an algorithm.

            …plus, ya know, lawmakers are idiots and adopt explicit contradictions, soo….

        • Deiseach says:

          I certainly think the media is not going to try too hard to exercise the principle of charity when it comes to any actions of the Trump administration.

          As to the “Trump is lazy and watches TV, Bannon/Pence/The Man Behind The Curtain is the one actually calling the shots and Trump is just the bozo figurehead” etc. rumours, I imagine that’s axe grinding, people who see a chance to sell a story and make a few bob and in general anything that relies on “My cousin’s friend’s hairdresser swore that her client works in that department and she said that…” as a source is generally trying to sell you a bill of goods.

          Re: Mexico paying for the wall, I thought that (a) reductions in aid the US sends/pays to Mexico – as here in 2015 under President Obama, so it’s definitely a tactic that has been used to lean on the Mexican government before. Yes, this article says cutting aid won’t work, but as noted, the State Department did make a small cut in 2015 and I’m not saying cut all aid completely, just make some cuts and murmur that more might be on the table, unless of course all parties can sit down and negotiate a deal

          (b) cutting deals to let Mexican companies tender for work would be the way to go – after all, if the putative illegal immigrants can actually get construction jobs working for Mexican companies on the Mexican side, it means they don’t need to come over the border, which could easily be spun as “see, immediate reduction in border crossing incidents!”

          Certainly “we built the wall, here’s the bill” approach is not going to work, but there’s plenty of wiggle room between that and “told ya the wall is never gonna happen”.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            The wall is going to be on US soil, right? What work is there on Mexican soil?

          • Matt M says:

            As to the “Trump is lazy and watches TV, Bannon/Pence/The Man Behind The Curtain is the one actually calling the shots and Trump is just the bozo figurehead” etc. rumours

            Keep in mind this line of thought was also super common in terms of Dick Cheney/GWB as well. Fits nicely with the “popular conservatives are always dumb, and unpopular ones are evil scheming masterminds” stereotyping that the mainstream media is constantly promoting.

          • Deiseach says:

            What work is there on Mexican soil?

            Well, that’ll be the carrot in the carrot-and-stick approach, right? Sub-contracting, supplying goods and services, tendering for contracts to supply labour, electrical power etc., some or all in partnership with US companies – enough goodies to go round for everyone!

            Going by the Wikipedia page, the border walls in some parts are reminiscent of the Republic/Northern Ireland border, i.e. cross the road and you’re in the other country. Easy enough to have Mexican construction companies working on it from the Mexican side when it’s literally butting up against the city limits in some cases.

    • 1soru1 says:

      Basic question; how do you know how he ‘really is’, as opposed to how ‘the media’ tell you he is? Unless you are a member of his inner circle, you don’t have some privileged knowledge of the inner True President.

      It certainly seems unwise to start from the assumption he is honest, clever and well-intentioned. And downright foolish to reject any evidence to the contrary because as he is good, then the people telling lies about him must be bad.

    • Wrong Species says:

      You’re not going to get an unbiased answer to this question.

    • One thing you might want to try is to keep track of predictions.

      You read source A. It says “Trump will nominate his sister for the Supreme Court” (extreme example–I don’t remember anyone saying this, but his sister is a judge). You write down the prediction and the source. Trump nominates someone other than his sister, you downrate that source.

      I tried to do this retrospectively for the IPCC. I looked at each report, calculated what warming I would have expected thereafter on the basis of that report, then compared them all to what happened. It would have been better if I had done it for each report when it came out, better still if it had been done for each report by someone supportive of the report at the time it came out.

      After a prediction turns out to be false, those who made it are inclined to either ignore the error or try to retroactively qualify what they said. So you want to record what you think they claimed when they claimed it.

  9. Leit says:

    Last open thread I made a comment that singled out a couple of regulars. On reading the responses, it came off as unfair to them – their content is quality, and the reactions were nowhere near the level of what they were being compared to.

    So yeah, this is an apology. No excuses.

    • Iain says:

      Thank you.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Eh. I took as “HBC and Iain are avatars of the left at SSC”. I mean, I thought your premise was wrong, but I didn’t take it personally.

      But, to the extent that you really did mean that I can be expected to say awful things, I accept the apology?

      In an case, nice of you to say.

  10. Dahlen says:

    There’s a class of arguments that I often see thrown around here and elsewhere, and for a long time I’ve been meaning to address in full why I find it flawed.

    I’m talking about the tactic of diverting attention from the object of disagreement to the fact of disagreement, when someone expresses opposition to something about your faction, and it’s frequently deployed in free-speech/PC arguments. For instance, suppose there’s somebody approving of private individuals silencing a speaker because of his objectionable demeanour and/or message. You chime in with, “so, you want to ban everyone who ever disagrees with you?”. If it sounds very familiar, it’s because SSCers are selected for this. You may think that this is a good way to slam someone from across the aisle, to avoid recourse to appeal to fundamental values which obviously someone from a different “tribe”, as you would say, doesn’t share. So you appeal to an apparent symmetry of the situation that the other person should be able to understand. If further pressed, you ask this person to imagine himself as a time-traveller of sorts, fighting for the right to merely express some liberal opinion of his which may be anodyne today, but was illegal in the 1600s. A good and pithy argument, right?

    It’s the new relativism of a faction finding itself in the position of the underdog. I’m here to argue that it’s from the cultural status of the underdog that this tactic arises rather than from any deeply-held principle, that it’s a prime way to sidestep the point of contention and annoy your interlocutor with unfair sophistry, and that a society that gets mired in such exchanges too often is a fragile society at great risk for getting torn apart from internal tensions.

    First, the rhetorical analysis. This rhetorical weapon wreaks its damage by asking the opponent to admit to something which no sane person would admit to: that the grounds for his opposition to stuff in general consist in nothing more, nothing less than a mere deviation from his arbitrary opinion, which he holds in too high a regard. He is expected to reject the notion, but, by its own, this would make his reaction look incongruent to his initial position. Hence, your tactic works as a heads-I-win/tails-you-lose against the opponent, if he addresses your insinuation directly — which is why you’re so reliant on it. “Clean” rhetoric, however, doesn’t abound in such free lunches. Presumably your opponent has some better argument for his opposition to the thingamajig beyond mere dictatorial caprice, and he thinks you were supposed to understand that, goddammit, and he thinks that the only reason you pretend you don’t is because you don’t want the discussion to go there, into the finer points of the worth of what you’re defending, and so that’s why you’re highlighting the disagreement itself rather than the reason for it. It may be that focusing on the substance benefits him, and focusing on the form benefits you. And the point of contention lies somewhere in the substance. It may come down to precisely that conflict of ultimate values which may prove unsolvable.

    (This is an example of the larger class of formal vs. substantive approaches, of which I’d also have something to say: that formal approaches may come more naturally to STEM-people, and that’s why rationalists are often fond of contrived analogies that invert the substance or replace it with gobbledygook, often to the detriment of the substantial conclusions of the argument.)

    I have found that a key requirement for productive conversations is to agree to address the things that your interlocutor wants addressed, rather than frustrate them by pointedly avoiding to address their concerns. It may be a good chess move for you to go the adversarial way and resist giving your interlocutor what they want, or talking about what interests them. But it makes for shoddy debate norms, which should be thought of as a public good of sorts.

    Second, the tribal warfare level of the analysis. See, I find it suspect that people would downplay something that they presumably care strongly about as a mere point of disagreement with e.g. a liberal. For a conservative Christian who’s being looked down upon by liberals for her stance on abortion, she doesn’t merely think that hers is some sort of banal opinion like one’s taste in music that’s just as good as the next person’s. That’s not the grounds for which she wishes to affirm herself. No; she sees herself as fighting the good fight on a very serious matter of real human life and death, and it is paramount for the right to live of hundreds of millions of people that the pro-life opinion prevails. (For the record, in case it comes off that way, I’m not being in the least bit mocking here and I hope this passes the ideological Turing test.) Which is to say, it’s at least a little bit disingenuous when such a big concern tries to enter through the small door reserved for mere difference of opinion. Furthermore, as right-wingers correctly point out, in the past plenty of present-day milquetoast liberal positions would be considered unspeakable, and while it may help a few liberals with empathising with the position of the person with an unpopular opinion, this works just as well as a reminder that supporters of right-wing positions have also been pretty intolerant with the opposition, and in no way is the value of free speech more inherent in right-wing thought than in left-wing thought. And it’s not like I haven’t noticed the more extreme kinds of right-wingers say that the only hope against leftism, that insidious foe, is the scorched-earth approach — throw them out of institutions, never to come back, bar them from power forever, discredit them as mentally ill, throw them down the memory hole… So, once we agree on the dismal hypothesis that there are no principles, only tactics, and everybody is a cynical amoral bastard that only gives a damn about free speech insofar as it furthers their existing political goals, the conservative appeal to tolerance of dissent is merely a matter of aiming as high as they can from a position of cultural disfavour, and that they’d be just as gleeful as anybody to crack down on liberal freeze peach once the tables are turned. Underdog tactics for underdog conditions. In short, what matters is the advancement of your positions, not the advancement of tolerance of dissent. Tolerance of dissent is only a means to an end. Awful, isn’t it? Why can’t we have nice things?

    Which brings us to the third point — the implications for society at large. Society needs some stability and cohesion. It’s understandable that, if what I’ve theorised in my first (substantial) paragraph is correct, people snarking about “disagreement” don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of conflicting fundamental values. But really, people, we shouldn’t be having unresolvable conflicts about fundamental values all the goddamn time. It doesn’t bode well for our society. Free speech is a very good value for putting ideas in free and fair competition so that the best idea might win. But if that takes place all the time, endlessly, then the part where the best idea wins doesn’t happen. There is no settlement, no resolution — just acrimony and disunity, over and over again. Either the exercise of free speech takes the form of a cumulative, progressive, convergent learning process, so that we’re not stuck in permanent loops of undo/redo, or some lines are drawn, some matters are decreed to be beyond the pale, society agrees to orbit tightly around centrism, and we are, if needed, forced to share enough values so that we don’t come to hate each other. Either way, the solution is some degree of convergence — or conformism, if you wish to put it like that. Otherwise, society comes apart, it loses the axiological glue keeping it together.

    Oh, and there’s another pillar of the argument against this tactic that I’ve been meaning to discuss — the symmetry, or lack thereof, of the process of disagreement. The tactic doesn’t even work to the extent described in the rest of the post if one disagreement is better-founded than the other. People with wildly different value systems are sort of forced to work under axiological agnosticism, where nobody’s value system is taken for granted. This cannot be workably stretched very far because of the reasons given above regarding societal cohesion, but it’s a good pacifist norm. However, bear in mind that it’s a fiction which we entertain just so that nobody’s feelings are hurt, and in reality someone is wrong and, maybe, the other is right. (Then again, this can be disputable for philosophical reasons.) All disagreement is not created equal. Positions that espouse less tolerance are ill-suited to appeal to the audience’s tolerance; the right to be nasty to others isn’t as defensible as the opposition to nastiness; reactionary policies that have inspired mass revolts from people deeply dissatisfied with them face an uphill battle relative to the more progressive policies that supplanted them, in order to surpass the fact that they fell out of favour in the first place. I’m sure you can think of other examples that have less of an obvious progressive bent, but when you do, remember that they still work towards the conclusion that the “mere disagreement” charge is shitty sophistry.

    • Deiseach says:

      that the grounds for his opposition to stuff in general consist in nothing more, nothing less than a mere deviation from his arbitrary opinion, which he holds in too high a regard

      Do you think the argument also fails if it’s been used by the underdog (who up to now has always been the underdog, and is not merely the formerly powerful now in the place of the underdog) and is then thrown aside once they achieve power – this, after all, would be the retort by your putative conservative: the left were all for the protection of transgressive speech when they were the ones transgressing against traditional or conventional values and were very much against censorship, but now they’re in power it’s suddenly “socially unacceptable speech should be banned! censorship!”

      I think there is an actual principle involved beyond mere cynical tactics, but I do agree that any principle can be degenerated into tit-for-tat in a struggle. As a conservative, I would see the necessity for some form of censorship, so I have to bite the bullet and accept that the left’s call for censorship should be considered fairly as well. My beef – and that of the conservatives – would be that the left in power seem to be using free speech as a cynical tactic and not a principle: if really committed to “there are no unthinkable thoughts or unsayable words”, why suddenly start making lists of these? But that’s more a calling out of perceived hypocrisy than tactical warring – or I’d hope so, at least.

      Actually, that would be my defence of it here: “You say that the right has always put limits on free speech and has been pro-censorship, and I would agree there. But if that is the right, then the left has always been for liberty and the lack of censorship. If I call into question your commitment to that, since you seem to have abandoned it once in power, it is no rebuttal to say to me ‘But your side is the one that likes censorship!’ Yes, it is and we do, that is not what is in question here. What is in question here is – by what values do you operate? If you are adopting ours, then our side is in the right and you must admit that your project has failed, if it needs ‘in order to save the village we had to destroy it’ – in order to protect tolerance and liberty, we must be intolerant and impose restrictions. That has always been our argument, that limits and bounds are needed and necessary; yours has always been that no restrictions are or can be possible in a truly free and equal society”.

      • Dahlen says:

        Do you think the argument also fails if it’s been used by the underdog and is then thrown aside once they achieve power – this, after all, would be the retort by your putative conservative: the left were all for the protection of transgressive speech when they were the ones transgressing against traditional or conventional values and were very much against censorship, but now they’re in power it’s suddenly “socially unacceptable speech should be banned! censorship!”

        Naturally. The offence that this tactic causes me is rhetorical rather than political in nature, it bothers me in the same manner as fallacies would, because it minimises the relevant concern in favour of some misleading trick to make the opponent look bad. I know who has been known to employ it at various points in time, but to whatever extent I identify myself with the left, it doesn’t bother me less when the left does it.

    • Jugemu says:

      The final paragraph makes this come across as a long-winded way of saying “my values are obviously better, so everyone should adopt them and stop trying to claim they have the right to disagree with me”. I mean yes, that’s what everyone thinks, including the ones you strongly disagree with.

      At any rate, the awareness of irreconcilable values has been increasingly leading to calls for secession/breakup of the US from both left and right. Just as there was a partition of India into Muslim and Hindu countries, one day we might see a partition of the US into Red and Blue countries. At the moment it’s still very much a minority viewpoint and both Trump and the Democrat establishment would strongly oppose such a thing. And it’s hard to see how it can happen without violence given how intertwined everything is.

      • Dahlen says:

        The final paragraph makes the point that someone may be right and the other may be wrong — God only knows who. I’m very much aware that I used prog-sounding examples, because that’s what you’d expect given that the one who wrote the thing was me, which is why the very next sentence asks people to mentally substitute my chosen examples with similar asymmetries that may be more amenable to their conservative sensibilities. The arguments are, in principle, apolitical; I’ve just peppered the whole piece with examples that disfavour the right because it seems to me that, currently, it is the right committing this fallacy.

        We’re in the midst of a discussion about a subtly wrong rhetorical tactic. You’d think I would at least notice that you seem to think this excerpt passes the standard:

        The final paragraph makes this come across as a long-winded way of saying “my values are obviously better, so everyone should adopt them and stop trying to claim they have the right to disagree with me”.

        Really? You think I would say this? A bit more credit, please. Thank you.

        The things you said in the second paragraph are what I fear, and why I made a point of mentioning the weakening of social cohesion. Your country will be in great danger, unless people try to find a common denominator, and stop doing things just to spite the other. And if your country is facing major internal turmoil, I would expect that other superpowers would take advantage of the maelstrom to start acting up.

        • Jugemu says:

          >Really? You think I would say this? A bit more credit, please.

          What one is implying is often more important that what one is explicitly claiming. If you really wanted to make a meta-meta point about how we need to be less meta and more concrete, as opposed to arguing for a specific concrete position, you should have either refrained from concrete examples or given ones going both ways.

          >Your country will be in great danger

          Not my country, though I’m watching with considerable interest.

          • Dahlen says:

            Like I was saying to Wrong Species below, because you both seem to have read my post from a partisan angle and got put off at the expense of taking notice of the much larger part of the argument which pertained to rhetoric, I had no interest in downplaying the fact that I was addressing my argument to right-wing people, even though it could go both ways. I wanted you to feel targeted by this post, at the risk of running afoul of everybody’s natural defensiveness. Least of all I wanted to tailor my post to appeal to the local bias, have everybody nodding sagely along with me and say, “yes, yes, indeed, this is a fallacy we should be concerned about… P.S. fuck the left”.

            If you want to play the implications game without dragging the discussion down into the gutters, at least be fair and subtle about it. No ridiculous caricatures.

        • PedroS says:

          The problem you point to (lack of social cohesion due to the presence of polarized opinions) is the perennial justification offered by most societies for why toleration of the outgroup is misguided and potentially seditious. The solution you seem to be proposing (and I apologize if I am not reading you properly) implies that one of the polarizing opinions should be proscribed, but if that opinion is widespread (i.e. above some very noticeable threshold) proscribing it will be impossible short of state-imposed violence. The problem then just moves one way up on the meta-level: why was state-imposed violence in defense of communitarian/political norms abhorrent in relatively homogeneous Catholic Spain, Apartheid South Africa, etc. but permissible in the defense of a wildly heterogeneous society like the ones we have built in the late 20th century? And IF one posits that censoring opinions is a seemingly inevitable consequence of the evolution of a society where values homogeneity cannot be taken for granted, would that not mean that the Enlightenment project is destined to contradict itself, and to simply replace one homogeneous conforming society by a different society, equally homogeneous and conforming, but with a different alignment? I fear that accepting your reasoning forces one to accept that all those people across the centuries who opposed tolerance towards the outgroups were not indeed evil, not even misguided, but ultimately in the right, as tolerance implies the marginalization of their ingroup. I am not ready to cross that bridge.

          PS: Please do not take any of my comments as imputing any wrong motives to you. I am ready to admit that I may have misread you or otherwise misunderstood you.

          PPS: I think that the only solution to the tension between personal freedom and respect to communitarian norms lies in the emergence of self-selected communities of affinity where people agree to be bound by specific norms and solidarity within the community and where no enforced solidarity towards outside members is required (i.e. a non-geographical version of Scott’s Archipelago with radical rights of free association and accompanying freedom to separate).

          • Leit says:

            > relatively homogenous
            > South Africa

            …you’re talking about a country with 11 official languages, and that’s not going into the breakdowns by tribe, which still matter in Africa.

            Oh, and it’s discounting the relatively large populations of what the US likes to call “asians”, but saffers just call indians and chinese, despite them having been here since the brits brought them over as cheap labour.

            And if you’re going to talk about obviously meaning the white people in power, bear in mind that the whites were – and are – deeply divided between afrikaners and “rooinek” european descendants who still held grudges about a couple of attempted wars of extermination.

            tl;dr: pick another example.

          • PedroS says:

            you are of course right about SA. I did not mean the “relatively homogenous” label to apply to South Africa, but I did not proofread it correctly. I meant apartheid SA to count as an example of “state-imposed violence in defense of communitarian/political norms “.

    • The Nybbler says:

      For instance, suppose there’s somebody approving of private individuals silencing a speaker because of his objectionable demeanour and/or message. You chime in with, “so, you want to ban everyone who ever disagrees with you?”. If it sounds very familiar, it’s because SSCers are selected for this. You may think that this is a good way to slam someone from across the aisle, to avoid recourse to appeal to fundamental values which obviously someone from a different “tribe”, as you would say, doesn’t share.

      Just the opposite. This IS an appeal to fundamental shared values. Or is intended to be; unfortunately, in the past few years it’s become evident that the tribe this is usually used against does _not_ share the values of free speech and open debate and “the marketplace of ideas”. So at this point, that tactic serves mostly to expose them as being against those values.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        unfortunately, in the past few years it’s become evident that the tribe this is usually used against does _not_ share the values of free speech and open debate

        I know this has been done to death, but do you not remember the early 2000s? The 50s? The 60s? The 80s? You truly claim there was no zeitgeist among red tribe that desired to censor the expression of political dissent?

        There isn’t anything particular to one tribe or the other in this. It’s the fact that free speech as a moral good/principle is in contention with other moral goods/principles and there is a human failure mode that ignores the tension in the system as long the moral good in question favors your argument.

        • Matt M says:

          do you not remember the early 2000s? The 50s? The 60s? The 80s? You truly claim there was no zeitgeist among red tribe that desired to censor the expression of political dissent?

          Only old enough to recall the early 2000s. I remember a significant element of right-wing thought that basically went “you best support the war or you are a filthy traitor,” sure. I do NOT remember large mobs of right-wing brownshirts wearing masks and carrying pipes and beating up people who tried to attend Michael Moore speeches or Noam Chomsky lectures, no.

          The ends may be similar, but the means seem quite different this time.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            You are moving the goalposts. Nybbler said that the right-wing valued free speech and the left-wing did not. You are supporting my argument, not weakening it.

            Additionally, the right wing is so used to threatening violence if they do not get their preferred policy outcome that it has it’s own catch-phrase: “Second Amendment remedies”. You might object that this is about the right to protect access to their own individual rights, but when that is combined with shouts of “treason” and “traitor” for not being sufficiently jingoistic, or even just arguing for the ACA, let’s say I am uneasy.

            And of course, in the 50s and the 60s gross violence was done not just by individuals, but by the state, in service of preventing the free exercise of speech and assembly. Hoover, McCarthy, Kent State, the Civil Rights marches, …

            Even lately, the varying reactions to BLM marches is telling. It’s one thing to decry violence done by some, it’s another to decry the protest itself and favor a muscular return to law and order.

          • Randy M says:

            “Second Amendment remedies”. You might object that this is about the right to protect access to their own individual rights, but when that is combined with shouts of “treason” and “traitor” for not being sufficiently jingoistic, or even just arguing for the ACA, let’s say I am uneasy.

            Do you mean combined “within the same movement” or combined “within the same argument”?
            I do not mean to nit-pick, but I don’t think you are being fair. Can you point to any time that revolution (or lower level politcal violence) was suggested in order suppress anti-war support or particular legislation?

            It’s one thing to decry violence done by some, it’s another to decry the protest itself and favor a muscular return to law and order.

            What do you mean by decry? It seems entirely reasonable to decry a protest if one objects to the aims of the protest (and let’s not be so facile as to say objecting to a movement with the name “Black lives matter” means objecting to that particular explicit premise).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Additionally, the right wing is so used to threatening violence if they do not get their preferred policy outcome that it has it’s own catch-phrase: “Second Amendment remedies”.

            Come on, this is reaching, and you know it. Left-wing speakers aren’t routinely forced to cancel events due to mobs of shotgun-toting NRA fanatics.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Randy M/@The Original Mr. X:
            I’m saying when you are accused of treason for stating your position and the same people regularly darkly hint at armed revolution there is an implicit threat. Certainly the right-wing has had their share of murders committed over abortion, and the rhetoric around gun rights is in spitting distance of the anti-abortion rhetoric.

            And again, this is a distraction. The claim (as I saw it, although The Nybbler seems to be clarifying his stance below) had to do with whether right-wingers had the exclusive claim on valuing free speech.

            As to BLM, there is a distinction between differing with their position and faulting them for speaking out in favor of it. And then another difference when you want the police to knock some heads, arrest journalists covering the protests, etc.

            I mean, for something really simple, lets look at the proposed Flag Desecration amendment. That was a a very popular position on the right.

          • Matt M says:

            HBC,

            I think there’s a difference between one side suggesting laws be passed to silence your political opponents, and the other side – dissatisfied that such laws do not seem to be coming any time soon – taking it upon themselves to enforce such silencing with vigilante mob justice.

            The right says “throw flag burners in jail!” The police say, “nothx” The right shrugs and moves on with their lives.

            The left says “criminalize hate speech!” The courts say “nah first amendment bro” The left then dons their masks and picks up bricks and pepper spray to go make sure that hate speech cannot still exist.

            These are not comparable situations.

          • Randy M says:

            Certainly the right-wing has had their share of murders committed over abortion

            If I point out that this is really not about opposing anyone’s speech, would that be another distraction?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            Oh, there are plenty of people who revel in seeing left wingers pepper sprayed and beaten.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, but it’s the police doing the pepper spraying. Conservatives see this as “the law being properly enforced.” They do not, as a rule, take the law into their own hands when the state does not adequately enforce it to their satisfaction.

            I understand if you want to say that these things are the same in the end. I suppose you could classify all law enforcement agents as “right wing” and thus say “yes right wingers do beat up protesters all the time.” But I do think it’s worth distinguishing between government force and mob justice. I’m no fan of government force myself and I’d say in most cases it comes much closer to mob justice than the average person would like to admit – but still. There are no private armies of brownshirts disrupting left-wing gatherings, and virtually no right-leaning people are even calling for such things…

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Thing is, flag desecration is at least based on a discrete category, “Flag”. The really bothersome thing about the Left’s current turn is that it isn’t just hurt “Nazis” as a discrete category, i.e. Richard Spencer. It’s Milo, Gavin McInnes, oh and liberals can get the bullet too (graffiti at the Berkeley riots).

            Of course, technically Nazi could be a category like Flag is, but that’s a lot harder to do. I guess you could pin it to specific things like “hitler support” and “swastika”, but problem is that already excludes Spencer. Point is, I criticize both “Punch discrete category Nazi” and “Don’t burn discrete category flag”, but the Left is saying “Punch people I don’t like if I consider them a Nazi” and that is a lot more frightening. It’s probably a lot like “beat up anti-patriotic people”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            You didn’t watch the whole video if you think it I only police doing the pepper spraying.

            In addition, the fact that the right revels in the state breaking up assembly and speech is hardly a plus on the “definitely in favor of free speech” scorecard.

          • rlms says:

            @AnonEEmous
            “punch Nazi” and “don’t burn flag” aren’t really comparable. The correct comparisons are “punch Nazi”/”jail flag burner” and “don’t be Nazi (or face punching)”/”don’t burn flag (or face jail)”. Since jail is worse than punching (and even mild government action sets a bad precedent), I think flag desecration laws (or equally laws against the kinds of Nazis currently being punched) would be worse than the current (relatively low) level of Nazi punching.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            “punch Nazi” and “don’t burn flag” aren’t really comparable.

            Yes, sorry, I should’ve been more specific, but I think you understood – Don’t be a Nazi versus Don’t burn flags, and Be a Nazi versus Burn flags.

            Anyways, it’s fair to argue from the perspective of harm. But what bothers me is that “don’t be a Nazi” is completely ill-defined, whereas “don’t burn flags” is extremely well-defined. And as I noted, while “Don’t be a Nazi” could theoretically be well-defined, it would only be by certain characteristics which technically not even Richard Spencer would fit (swastikas, et cetera). As a result, the category of “Nazi” is prone to spin wildly out of control – see current situation. Again, I think a better comparison is “nazi” versus “unpatriotic” or even “traitor to the country”.

          • Matt M says:

            Since jail is worse than punching

            This is one way of looking at it, sure.

            Another way would be: If we all generally agree on the moral legitimacy of democracy as a form of government, then voting for politicians who will ban flag burning is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and if people can convince a majority to vote for that, it is right and just for flag burning to be banned.

            But it is NOT right and just to punch someone who is not breaking an actual law. That is not at all in accordance with democratic principles. That is mob justice.

            It’s not like the left hasn’t or wouldn’t try to get hate speech laws passed. Hell, it has already succeeded in doing so in Canada and most of Western Europe. They are only punching people specifically because they have not won the democratic battle of ideals which we have all generally agreed is how we will properly mediate these sort of disputes.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I note that, from my perspective, we have whooshed right past the point where I have proven my point and now you want to argue who is worse.

            I don’t think the “who is worse” argument is very fruitful. It’s like playing opression Olympics.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Sorry, HBC, I never argued that the right wing was perfect. I’m well aware that things like “free speech” are more often than not positions of convenience; people don’t want to hear what you have to say at the moment, so you invoke principles to make them.

            With that said, the argument I did come to make is that the current Left is way out of control as compared to the recent Right. Again, laws against flag burning are just plain dumb, but they’re not hard to avoid violating. Currently, the Left is basically okaying violence against a wider and wider pool of people, and no one has any idea where it will end. If you consider yourself a liberal, HBC, then as AntiFa says, you’ll get the bullet too!

            edit:

            Oh yeah. To the people who WERE arguing that, I don’t think you’re right about it. Let’s get real, certain principles benefit the oppressed and other the oppressors. Certain people stand by those principles regardless, but most people aren’t that principled to begin with sadly. So they stand for it if they think, say, free speech means them not getting censored. It’s not even necessarily hypocrisy, just feelings-fueled motivated reasoning.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            HBC, if you’re arguing that law enforcement is exactly the same morally as random violence carried out by mobs of masked men, then maybe it’s time to back up a little bit.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @ThirteenthLetter:

            I note that, from my perspective, we have whooshed right past the point where I have proven my point and now you want to argue who is worse.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “Who is worse” is a wildly, almost comically incorrect phrase for drawing distinctions between a) uniformed police who must follow detailed, public, and specific rules and are accountable to a democratically elected government, and b) an anonymous mob of masked goons accountable to no one whose explicit goal is to prevent from speaking, and in many cases beat up, anyone who has political opinions they disagree with, while breaking windows and looting as they feel like in the process.

            Really, what is with this desperate attempt to equate the antifa with someone, anyone, on the right?

        • I know this has been done to death, but do you not remember the early 2000s? The 50s? The 60s? The 80s?

          I don’t remember the 50s, but I was an adult and paying some attention to politics for the other dates you mention, and I cannot remember left wing opinion being silenced. In the sixties, when I was an undergraduate and then a graduate student, conservative speakers at colleges were sometimes prevented from speaking, but I don’t remember liberal or communist speakers being silenced.

          Of course, I have spent my life mostly in an academic environment, where left of center views are the norm, so perhaps I missed things happening in the wider world. Could you give examples–left wing speakers being shouted down and the like?

          • Chalid says:

            Offhand, for the ’50s McCarthyism comes to mind, and for the ’60s there was lots of violence directed at the civil rights movement. Not sure what HBC was thinking of with the 80s, I was very young then.

          • cassander says:

            >Offhand, for the ’50s McCarthyism comes to mind

            There was virtually zero violence in McCarthy period. There were anti-Bolshevik riots in the first red scare, but not really the second. A few people were were put in prison, but all of them have turned out to actually be spies.

          • Chalid says:

            The quote being defended is “You truly claim there was no zeitgeist among red tribe that desired to censor the expression of political dissent?” McCarthyism clearly qualifies.

          • cassander says:

            apologies, I was crossing threads.

          • skef says:

            “Shouted down” is pretty specific, and in general the attempts to silence that get publicity don’t work in a broader sense.

            So in term of attempts, it seems like the movement to fire Angela Davis from UCLA would be one example (especially around here).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            McCarthyism has already been brought in regards to the 50s.

            You think the 60s, which brought all of the Civil Rights marches, the state sponsored violence brought to suppress it, the anti-war movement which had incidents like Kent State … you think that was the right supporting freedom of speech?

            You seem to be confusing the left being successful in speaking with an absence of an attempt to suppress. But of course there are plenty of examples of speech being successfully suppressed as well. Medgar Evars never spoke again. Martin Luther King never spoke again. Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney never spoke again.

            I mean, I hate to bring up what will seem like shop-worn examples. But honestly, this should have been bloody obvious.

          • cassander says:

            @HBC

            >the anti-war movement which had incidents like Kent State

            At Kent state, a bunch of students burned down a building on campus then threw rocks at the firemen who cam to put it out. The guardsmen weren’t trying to censor anyone, they were stopping a riot that had already turned violent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            You are correct that Kent State can’t be called peaceable assembly. You are slightly wrong on the details. The fire occurred the day before. The next day, while in the process of dispersing a protest, national guardsmen commenced firing indiscriminately into a dispersed mass of people.

            “Of those wounded, none was closer than 71 feet (22 m) to the guardsmen. Of those killed, the nearest (Miller) was 225 feet (69 m) away, and their average distance from the guardsmen was 345 feet (105 m).”

            Nonetheless, my contention stands that thinking of the 60s as a time when free speech on the left was only met with counter-argument is a fairly ridiculous position.

          • Protagoras says:

            @cassander, Got a citation for that? There do seem to have been a lot of actual spies in the McCarthy era, but in the past when I’ve looked into this I did not find any evidence that McCarthy was anywhere close to 100% in targeting his accusations at the actual spies, though I had encountered people mistakenly giving him undeserved credit for his accuracy. It’s possible you are correct with respect to people actually sent to prison, but having seen the past record of people making the mistaken leap from “there were actual spies” to “McCarthy was right about everything,” I’m just inclined to suspicion when another McCarthy defense pops up.

          • rlms says:

            @Protagoras
            I also get the impression that there is equivocation between “many of the people targeted by McCarthyism were (secret) Communist sympathisers” and “many of the people targeted were actual spies”.

          • cassander says:

            @protagoras says:

            >It’s possible you are correct with respect to people actually sent to prison, but having seen the past record of people making the mistaken leap from “there were actual spies” to “McCarthy was right about everything,” I’m just inclined to suspicion when another McCarthy defense pops up.

            Yes, I meant the people who were actually imprisoned. The closest you get to someone innocent there is Ethel Rosenberg. She was definitely an accomplice, but decidedly less guilty than her husband. Some genuinely innocent people like Oppenheimer lost their jobs, but no one innocent suffered any worse than that, and many of those who did suffer that were plausible security risks.

            McCarthy the man was a drunk and a liar he was most certainly not right about everything. He was, however, far more right early in his infamy than he was later. I suspect that someone leaked him information early in his career and then either ran out or cut him off, which sent him off the rails, or he went off the rails then was cut off.

            In general though, the anti-communists were generally considerably closer to the truth than the anti-anti communists were, at least through the 40s and mid-50s.

          • Matt M says:

            McCarthy’s general thesis was 100% correct, even if he was wrong on a few individual cases.

            I feel like this is worth emphasizing because it’s virtually the opposite of what we are taught about the “red scare.”

          • Protagoras says:

            During the cold war, the Soviet Union was good at keeping secrets, and the United States was bad at it. One result of that is that the Soviet Union knew a lot more U.S. secrets than conversely. But there are other effects of being good at keeping secrets; it is impossible to make an organization good at keeping secrets from others without empowering those within it to keep secrets from one another, and whatever other purposes such secret-keeping power might be used in service of, they are invariably also used to conceal incompetence and corruption. I think it is very likely that being good at keeping secrets contributed more to the decline of the Soviet Union than to its preservation, and that the U.S. was fortunate not to be well endowed with such skills.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @cassander

            Some genuinely innocent people like Oppenheimer lost their jobs, but no one innocent suffered any worse than that

            Wait, I thought we had established a consensus of sorts that losing your job for political opinions you do have (not to talk about opinions you even don’t have but some scaremongers wrongly claim you to have) is a terrible thing that should not happen? Or is it terrible only when the ousting is done by some Twitter users but not when a senator McCarthy does it?

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @nimim.k.m.:

            Wait, I thought we had established a consensus of sorts that losing your job for political opinions you do have (not to talk about opinions you even don’t have but some scaremongers wrongly claim you to have) is a terrible thing that should not happen? Or is it terrible only when the ousting is done by some Twitter users but not when a senator McCarthy does it?

            a) Cassander isn’t saying losing your job isn’t bad, he’s saying it isn’t as bad as being sent to prison.

            b) Oppenheimer had extramarital affairs, one of them with a Communist who later committed suicide. This does not look good on a security investigation, which is one of the reasons:

            c) Oppenheimer lost his security clearance in 1954 due to anti-Communism (the HUAC, though, not the Senate) and thus his role on the Atomic Energy Commission. He did not lose his day job, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study, and continued there until the year before his death in 1967.

            d) Even if the AEC work had been his main job, the whole dealing-with-nuclear-secrets aspect makes it a pretty special kind of job; when two of the biggest countries you want to keep those secrets from are Communist, and when one of those countries has already leveraged Communist sympathies among your scientists to gain some of those secrets, I think it’s pretty reasonable to fire people with Communist connections and sympathies.

            (Oppenheimer could also probably have been blackmailed over the affairs, but that’s not really political.)

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Machina ex Deus

            I don’t disagree about the specific circumstances of Oppenheimer, but I’m under impression Oppenheimer wasn’t the only one, just one of the most high profile cases. There were lots of senate hearings, trials, blacklisted Hollywood persons, less than honorable FBI operations, and such. And talking about the famous names I can think of, were Charlie Chaplin, Aaron Copland or William Shirer really anti-American threats undermining the US? (Of course, of those mentioned, only Chaplin was actually for all intents and purposes exiled, Copland’s and Shirer’s problems were minor compared to that.)

            The Soviet intelligence managed to infiltrate the US state apparatus, but the one of the reasons it is so infamous is that for the all the noise, for a large part the scare wasn’t really your effective, justified counterintelligence measure. “We have a secret list of people who should not be hired because they might have voted for the wrong party!”

        • The Nybbler says:

          The Red Tribe doesn’t come into it. The phenomenon I’m referring to is mostly Grey v. Blue and Blue v. Blue. It used to be that leftists, liberals, and libertarians (including right-of-center libertarians) all agreed on a wide definition of free speech, whereas conservatives were more in favor of limits (including, during the Red Scare, limits on political expression; my impression is that this had faded by the ’80s when even Robert Bork agreed political speech was protected — and that wasn’t enough to get him confirmed).

          Recently, some groups of leftists who claim to be the successors of some of those earlier pro-speech leftists started pushing for what amount to severe limits on free speech, and liberals and libertarians objected by appealing to what they thought were shared values. (Censorious far-rightists may have hypocritically objected as well, but they’re not who I’m talking about).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think this ignores that certain leftists have always been in favor of a kind of “right think”. These people have always existed.

            The most ideologically committed in any movement are also those who are most prone to brook no opposition to the one truth.

      • Dahlen says:

        (I’ll be honest here: I’m finding this difficult to respond to. Difficult, but not impossible. So, props to that.)

        I think this is a matter of levels of recursion; I cannot explain it in any other way. In a sense, yes, I guess one can have freedom of speech with proliferation of disagreement as an ultimate value, so you have a point, but I think my point still stands when I say that this works against the possibility of appealing to fundamental values on the object level, on the level of what is being (freely) spoken of. So in a sense free speech could be considered a penultimate value, or perhaps an ultimate meta-value.

        It is still to be discussed whether you can have the value of free speech without proliferation of disagreement, so that instances of free speech constitute a convergent process where someone is persuaded by what the other person has said, instead of a process that causes fragments of society to drift further apart. And, of course, whether free speech can be disambiguated into the idealistic vision of the free marketplace of ideas, and the detractor’s view as an excuse for fighting like a pair of rams and calling people faggots. Or whether they’re both on the same continuum, sort of.

        So at this point, that tactic serves mostly to expose them as being against those values.

        You think so? Oh boy. Yes, I guess it does, in the same way that an ad hominem argument serves to expose somebody’s moral flaws. If you held yourself to the highest standards of fairness in debate, would you really employ something of the sort “oh, you’re just saying that because you can’t stand people disagreeing with you”?

        • Cypren says:

          It is still to be discussed whether you can have the value of free speech without proliferation of disagreement, so that instances of free speech constitute a convergent process where someone is persuaded by what the other person has said, instead of a process that causes fragments of society to drift further apart.

          This seems more a function of tribalism than free speech. Persuasion is absolutely possible between people who are discussing as equals in good faith, even around core identity matters. But once discussion topics become reinforced as tribal loyalty signals rather than objective conversations, fragmentation and polarization set in very rapidly. Certain keywords and topics are like flares sent up in battle signaling a charge from the enemy; people’s rational minds disconnect and their lizard-brains set in and steel them for combat. The reaction to your post is evidence enough of that: look at how many people immediately read it as, “he’s defending Antifa violently silencing conservatives because there is no other reason this topic could be relevant right now!

          I don’t think this has anything to do with failure to ban certain ideas, as such. It’s more about the bundling of ideas; the concept that espousing concept A makes you a member of Yellow Tribe and opposition to that concept de facto makes you a member of Green Tribe. And as an upstanding member of Yellow Tribe you must of course also support concepts B through Z because otherwise you might be one of those filthy Green Tribers. This bundling, in turn, exists because it’s politically beneficial to encourage it.

          Note, as an example, that the Tea Party movement started out as a protest against taxation. Within months, it had been co-opted into a general “everything Republicans support” movement (gun rights, anti-immigration, anti-Obamacare, oh, right, and something about taxes or whatever). The same thing happened with the “Women’s March” that started as objection to Trump’s sexism towards women and quickly became an “everything the Democrats support” event where people who were anti-Trump but also anti-abortion were vocally unwelcome.

          I don’t think this is accidental; I think it’s the coordinated work of party actors who are well aware that their hold on power relies on fracturing the populace into two opposition groups, and spend a great deal of time, money and effort to constantly reinforce the narrative that you’re either with Team Good or Team Evil. What’s different in the modern era is mostly that mass communications have allowed the groups to form coherent identities at the national level rather than the local level, like they were in years past. So instead of feeling like it’s the Podunk County Republicrat Party who are your mortal enemies, but maybe Republicrats on the other side of the country are okay-ish people, now all Republicrats must be destroyed and all Dempublicans must be supported nationwide, no matter the issue, discomfort or incongruence with the positions you were loudly advocating last week.

          If you go back 150 years, though, you’ll find the political rhetoric was pretty similarly heated and vicious, even when demographically, the entire voting public was white and male and culturally pretty damn similar compared to today. So I’m not sure that there’s any level of core values agreement that we can have, or topics we can declare out of bounds, that will return our discourse to some golden age of civility and non-tribalism. Those moments only seem to arrive in cases where a larger external threat emerges: Yellow and Green Tribes unite because the scary Brown Tribe from across the ocean threatens them both. When the Brown Tribe is defeated, they return to squabbling between each other. What’s more, I would also note that any time one of the two political parties gets a lock on government such that the other tribe becomes less of a threat of power, it tends to quickly devolve into squabbles among its own constituent factions as well.

          The periods in history when we’ve had national unity (or anything approaching it) all seem to follow this pattern of an external threat being most prominent in public consciousness. (Revolutionary War, War of 1812, WW1/2, 9/11, just to name a few.) Otherwise, we’ll fragment into smaller and smaller tribes in our desperate search for an outgroup to loathe. As Scott said so memorably, proximity + small differences = outgroup.

    • Wrong Species says:

      “It’s unhealthy for a society to have such divergent values. Therefore, conservatives should just give up and accept defeat.”

      This is what I got out of that. I’m going to have to pass. If you want us to stop fighting you can’t just persuade us to lay down arms. You’re going to have to pass laws to shut us up. Is that what you want?

      • Dahlen says:

        I’m sorry that my post pushed you into full oppositional mode. The argument I’m making is different from that and smarter than that, I daresay. This is a very mindkilled reading. To be frank, I didn’t help it by using a less politically charged frame, or by using a frame that’s politically charged in the direction you folks sympathise with, but you know what? It’s accurate, you’re the ones engaging in it most often, you’re the target group for my message. But I did try to work under the understanding that the arena of political debate is one of words, not swords. So, this talk of yours of “you can’t just persuade us to lay down arms”, when in fact I’m trying to persuade you to lay down a shitty argument… I don’t know what to make of it.

        To reiterate: when somebody opposes you, if your best attack is the accusation of opposition, and your best defence is your right to disagree, sidestepping the need to address their actual reason for opposing you, then that is weak and cowardly and you’ve lost by default. Hopefully this is sufficiently clear, apolitical and content-free so that people stop misinterpreting my argument in weird ways.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Quite frankly, you’re argument was somewhat meandering, which is why people may gotten a different message than what you meant. But what were you expecting as a reaction? You write an article that, from what I can tell, tells us that we’re too concerned with the meta-issue of free speech and not the object level, which comes across as trying to defend restrictions on free speech. And then you say “Either way, the solution is some degree of convergence — or conformism, if you wish to put it like that.” I’m sure you didn’t mean conformism to our ideals.

          “Positions that espouse less tolerance are ill-suited to appeal to the audience’s tolerance; the right to be nasty to others isn’t as defensible as the opposition to nastiness; reactionary policies that have inspired mass revolts from people deeply dissatisfied with them face an uphill battle relative to the more progressive policies that supplanted them, in order to surpass the fact that they fell out of favour in the first place.”

          This just looks like another “tolerate everything except intolerance”, which is what people say when they want to censor the right. We’re hypersensitive to people trying to censor us. Why wouldn’t we be?

          Let’s take a more charitable interpretation of what I believe you said:

          Imagine that a genocidal racist wants to hold a meeting at a university. The students freak out and use violence to keep him away. The right criticizes the students for blocking free speech. You criticize the right for only caring about the free speech angle and not the genocidal racist. Is this essentially all that you were trying to say? Because if it is, you could have said it in fewer words with less extraneous material.

          But even then, we don’t feel the need to state our opposition to genocidal racists because just because we support his right to speak doesn’t mean we condone its contents. If you think we do, then Muslims need to explicitly condemn every single ISIS attack, because it’s the same thing.

          • Dahlen says:

            Well, yes, it was a long post, that’s my idea of addressing something like that in full, but I wouldn’t say it lacked structure; I listed three main lines of argumentation, and then I followed them. Third paragraph of OP. (Or second, if you don’t count the first line.)

            Rest assured that I wasn’t expecting any sort of fawning reception; I went in prepared to have to defend and reiterate my point nonetheless. I knew it would activate everybody’s partisan tripwires, and I didn’t try to lessen the impact. Politically-inclined people do have this module of thought where they read between the lines of any argument and go, “does this help or hinder my cause?”. Hopefully, with enough exercise, we can overcome this tendency.

            I’m sure you didn’t mean conformism to our ideals.

            Don’t be so sure. I meant conformism to any common set of values that would help different factions not hate each other too much — most probably located somewhere around the centre of the political spectrum, but really, any point in-between the positions of the factions. Something everybody can like. So, it probably doesn’t mean conformism to 100% of your ideals, but at least something that includes or accommodates them as well to a satisfactory degree.

            This just looks like another “tolerate everything except intolerance”, which is what people say when they want to censor the right.

            Do read the sentence that follows the excerpt that you quoted; I’ve taken care to cover my ass with it against this specific sort of rebuttal. It may be any sort of contentious issue where one side obviously has a lot more going for it. It’s true that I like value systems that don’t shoot themselves in the foot, such as pro-tolerance values that include a provision against behaviours that would undo them, but you don’t have to agree with that. All I’m asking is that you don’t think of everything in terms of how it helps or hinders your ideology.

            We’re hypersensitive to people trying to censor us. Why wouldn’t we be?

            That’s a shame, that you’re hypersensitive. Maybe you should be… appropriately sensitive.

            Imagine that a genocidal racist wants to hold a meeting at a university. The students freak out and use violence to keep him away. The right criticizes the students for blocking free speech. You criticize the right for only caring about the free speech angle and not the genocidal racist. Is this essentially all that you were trying to say? Because if it is, you could have said it in fewer words with less extraneous material.

            No. It’s at best tangential to the main point I was trying to make. It depends on how shittily the right criticises the students for blocking free speech. “Hey, he may have a point, how do you know if you refuse to even listen to him? And even if he doesn’t have any point, at least let his vile ideas provide a counter-argument in and of themselves; censorship only serves to propel them” — that’s good freeze peach. (It may still run afoul of argument #3, but it passes the first and second manners of evaluation.) “Your only reason for trying to cancel his meeting is because you’re a big meaniepants who can’t stand people whom he can’t stand; the whole genocidal racist thing is at best tangential” — that’s bad freeze peach.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I’m really not as partisan as you’re making me out to be. I’ve gotten in slap fights with Trump fans on here before. I was actually devastated when he won. It’s really not a stretch to get the impression that you are trying to make a point about the need to restrict free speech. I will admit looking back, I can more clearly see what you’re trying to say. Let me try again:

            1. “People deflect away from the main argument instead of facing it head on.” No disagreement.

            2. “Many use free speech as a principle when they are down but are perfectly willing to use censorship when in power”. To some extent I think this is a problem but I don’t think you can accuse conservatives of doing this to the extent that you are. A lot of us actually do think it’s an important principle and would be willing to grant it the opposition even if we had the opportunity to do otherwise. Of course, I imagine you might think this is some delusion that I have and if I was actually in that position, I would change my mind. I don’t know how to convince you that I actually take the First Amendment seriously.

            3.”People need some kind of social cohesion or society falls apart.” I agree with the main point but then it starts getting more problematic there. You mention that the only way to do this is either keep moving forward progressively or to entrench a centrism that keeps out both extremes. I don’t know what you would consider beyond the pale. I do know that I have enough heterodox views that I need to hide them. And even if my views are acceptable enough today to be a part of the centrist club what are the chances that they won’t be a few decades from now? People on the right have to be vigilant about the way they talk politics in a way people on the left don’t. So yes, I’m hypersensitive to free speech and with good reason.

            That’s a shame, that you’re hypersensitive. Maybe you should be…. appropriately sensitive.

            What’s the appropriate amount of sensitive to people threatening to take away our first amendment rights? You may not be but people on the left do. It’s not something that’s easy to brush aside.

          • Dahlen says:

            2. “Many use free speech as a principle when they are down but are perfectly willing to use censorship when in power”. To some extent I think this is a problem but I don’t think you can accuse conservatives of doing this to the extent that you are. A lot of us actually do think it’s an important principle and would be willing to grant it the opposition even if we had the opportunity to do otherwise. Of course, I imagine you might think this is some delusion that I have and if I was actually in that position, I would change my mind. I don’t know how to convince you that I actually take the First Amendment seriously.

            What I called the dismal theory that everybody is an unprincipled cynical bastard — as the phrasing hints at, I didn’t say it as a thing that was meant to have too much credibility. I don’t award it a lot of credibility, and I hoped that the readership understood and didn’t award it a lot of credibility either. The epistemic status was more on the level of humouring the notion; it somewhat explains some % of free speech advocacy, and I was focusing in particular on the cases that try to sneak the absolute worst shit under the radar, and don’t have a notion of niceness except insofar as something that should be granted to them.

            I do believe that there is a class of people traditionally called liberals (not in the US sense, in the general sense) that do care about free speech as a value, and that would be willing to grant it to the opposition even if they had full power, but this class is also very unlikely to have much overlap with shock jocks, and doesn’t wield this right of theirs to antisocial ends — indeed, isn’t seriously concerned about the risk of using free speech to antisocial ends. I would say that this class includes the authors of the First Amendment.

            You mention that the only way to do this is either keep moving forward progressively or to entrench a centrism that keeps out both extremes.

            No, no, no, you got it wrong. When I said the word “progressive”, I meant it in the sense of “it builds on the achievements of past debates, so that people don’t endlessly discuss the same things without reaching a conclusion about them”, not in the sense of a leftist singularity.

            I’ll explain my stance on free speech once more. Free speech is an excellent principle as long as there are social norms and debate norms in place, if the majority of the discourse is dedicated to saying true (to the best of their knowledge), honest, rational things. If lies and propaganda come to dominate, if a lot of speakers are trying to stir half the country into a murder frenzy, if “bad speech” comes to disturb people not just through message but through volume (understood both as loudness and as flow rate), if people can no longer agree on a basic set of facts and no longer feel bound by the dictates of common decency, then we have a problem on our hands. Do you better understand where I’m coming from now?

            I do know that I have enough heterodox views that I need to hide them. And even if my views are acceptable enough today to be a part of the centrist club what are the chances that they won’t be a few decades from now? People on the right have to be vigilant about the way they talk politics in a way people on the left don’t. So yes, I’m hypersensitive to free speech and with good reason.

            Sometimes it feels like on SSC people’s emotions about the SJW Terror are jacked up to the max and this makes it difficult to have conversations about topics in this conceptual neighbourhood. I don’t think my post was TumblrInAction-worthy. And frankly I don’t feel obliged to signal hard that I subscribe to the local views whenever I make a post. I understand why you feel like that, but… I understand it even more when such feelings are actually relevant to the context at hand, if you get my meaning.

          • Cypren says:

            If lies and propaganda come to dominate, if a lot of speakers are trying to stir half the country into a murder frenzy, if “bad speech” comes to disturb people not just through message but through volume (understood both as loudness and as flow rate), if people can no longer agree on a basic set of facts and no longer feel bound by the dictates of common decency, then we have a problem on our hands.

            I agree with this in principle. But in practice, someone gets to determine what constitutes “bad speech”, and historically, that person or persons will always miraculously find that most bad speech happens to be opposing their particular preferences, ideology or power base.

            My feeling on speech restriction is pretty similar to my feelings on the death penalty, or hell, in Communism: works in a perfect world. Fails terribly in the real world, where the people in power will use that power for their own ends rather than social good.

            In other words, this is one cure that’s always worse than the disease.

            Sometimes it feels like on SSC people’s emotions about the SJW Terror are jacked up to the max…

            May I suggest that this is essentially the modern equivalent of conservatives who suggested that it really wasn’t that bad to be an out gay man 40 years ago? That people were overblowing the amount of discrimination and prejudice they faced?

            If you haven’t had the experience of being a closeted conservative in a left-wing monoculture, either at a major university or in an incredibly tilted industry such as entertainment, I would suggest that of course it will feel like paranoia and fearmongering to you. But it feels quite different to those of us who have lived (and are still living) the experience.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Dahlen

            I understand that you aren’t conflating progressive views with moving forward but in reality they are the same thing. Social conservatives are about tradition and “moving forward” means moving away from tradition. I’m not convinced that there is a way forward that is inclusive of conservative ideas and to be honest, I don’t think you believe that either.

            You talk about how bad it is to have “lies and propaganda” as dangerous to free speech. I agree. But who’s deciding what are lies and what is the truth? Hint, it’s not the conservatives. Intentionally or not, talking about free speech with these negative connotations is just normalizing the idea of restrictions on speech. To give an example, Donald Trump is probably not going to bring back Jim Crow laws. But he talks about Mexicans as rapists and brings people like Steve Bannon aboard his administration. People are worried that he’s normalizing the idea of racism to the extent that people who are more explicitly racist might be emboldened to act out. We know exactly how this whole talk about “well, maybe there should be some ‘common sense’ restrictions on free speech” is going to play out. The only way we can be sure it doesn’t happen is to resist it at every opportunity.

            Why do you think we’re so paranoid anyways? I’m going to assume that you have grown up a progressive and live in a progressive part of the country. Here’s an experiment: go up to to some people you know and tell them that you think Islam is a violent religion. Let me know how that goes.

          • Social conservatives are about tradition and “moving forward” means moving away from tradition.

            Moving away from tradition is “moving”. “Moving forward” means moving in a desirable direction. Whether what people who call themselves progressives want is movement in a desirable or undesirable direction is what people are disagreeing about.

            Suppose someone proposed undoing the New Deal changes, which are now nearly a century or old so clearly part of current tradition. Move to straight laissez-faire, no welfare programs of any sort–and they have existed for much longer than a century–no government regulation of any sort.

            That would surely be movement, but I doubt you would describe it as moving forward.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @David

            His original quote was

            the exercise of free speech takes the form of a cumulative, progressive, convergent learning process, so that we’re not stuck in permanent loops of undo/redo, or some lines are drawn,

            So removing the welfare state would be moving backwards. But if he thinks that would be a case of moving forwards, then how are we supposed to know the difference between moving forward and moving backwards? After all, moving backwards would simply keep us is in a “loop” that he’s trying to avoid.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            If we try the welfare state once, decide it isn’t working, then go back to life without it, that can still count as an advance in knowledge provided the lesson stays learned. It’s the “permanent loops of undo/redo” that would be bad, not the undoing once. The real problem is that the Whiggish optimism behind this idea of a “cumulative, progressive, convergent learning process” is hard to sustain if the process is really as easily corrupted as the OP suggests.

    • Spookykou says:

      This rhetorical weapon wreaks its damage by asking the opponent to admit to something which no sane person would admit to: that the grounds for his opposition to stuff in general consist in nothing more, nothing less than a mere deviation from his arbitrary opinion, which he holds in too high a regard.

      I’m here to argue that it’s from the cultural status of the underdog that this tactic arises rather than from any deeply-held principle

      huh.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      Hence, your tactic works as a heads-I-win/tails-you-lose against the opponent, if he addresses your insinuation directly — which is why you’re so reliant on it. “Clean” rhetoric, however, doesn’t abound in such free lunches.

      It does if the opposing arguments are sufficiently weak. If a statement is true, I would expect all counterarguments to be wrong, and it might be the case that you could enumerate all possible cases.

      For example, if you have a theory that claims to derive new truths about reality a priori, this theory is in principle falsifiable. If you claim this theory is not falsifiable, then it cannot provide new information. I would argue this “gotcha” is, in fact, valid, and applies to e.g. Austrian Economics.

      That minor detail aside, I think your argument that “free speech” resolves down to “tactics” falls apart when you consider that there are more than 2 political entities with opinions on free speech.

      • gbdub says:

        I agree. The argument criticized by the OP is basically calling out inconsistency. To the extent that you’re actually being inconsistent, it should be “heads I win, tails you lose”, because the call-out is accurate!

        I do think intellectual inconsistency is worth criticizing. It’s essentially the foundation of partisanship (another principle that ironically is criticized in a partisan “bad when it hurts me, ignored when it helps me” manner).

        That said, “I only support the free speech of ideas I agree with” (or more weakly “ideas I don’t find dangerous/offensive) is a perfectly consistent position – you just don’t get to use arguments in favor of free speech in general, because you don’t actually believe in the general principle.

  11. Levantine says:

    Theme: Irked by diametrically opposite claims about country’s political course.

    I’m from Europe and I live in Europe. As most Europeans, politically I leaned left for most of my life, and I mostly followed left-ish media.

    Those media would always explain to me that the United States, always a Right-wing country, has been moving even more to the Right for decades. (1) (Implied meaning: ‘what freaks!’)

    Historically recently, I saw there is nothing to hope for from the Left, I got to like Trump, and switched to read his supporters.

    They’re telling me that actually the United States have been on a dangerous course indeed in recent decades: a leftward course. (2)
    From some of them I also hear that it’s now on a firm course to the right, (3) –

    And I’ve also heard that the Left’s awakening is finally happening. (4) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXAQPCr1-gg)

    A segment of my mind is pissed off with these four „indisputable“ „self-evident“ grand-scale lived truths.

    What / how to think about them?

    If not much thinking is possible, then what attitude to take? Possible courses of action: scream, sing, discuss, meditate, … retreat in a hole?

    • registrationisdumb says:

      >If not much thinking is possible, then what attitude to take? Possible courses of action: scream, sing, discuss, meditate, … retreat in a hole?

      Become a master of dank memes.

    • Aapje says:

      @Levantine

      One explanation is that some segments of society are becoming more lefty and some more righty. Of course, people usually don’t perceive themselves shifting when they shift along with their peer-group (as there is no relative change). So when they see the gap widening between the left and the right, they perceive the balance shifting to the other side.

      A related explanation is that after winning a political battle, people tend to move on to increasingly trivial issues, rather than bask in their victory. So there is perpetual grievance, where past victories stop being recognized as victories, because they become normalized, but past losses keep being seen as losses.

      Another explanation is that these people are pointing at different issues. If you consider ‘social justice’ to be left-wing and corporate welfare to be right-wing; then both the right and the left have been winning on different issues. However, the caveat here is that both the left and right are not homogeneous. So there are plenty of the left that don’t see an increase in social justice as a win and plenty on the right that don’t see corporate welfare as a win. Outgroup homogeneity effects then logically results in people mistakenly believing that all changes that are favored by some on the other side are a win for that side, while only considering things that they personally agree with a win for their side, which is a much smaller subset. Basically:

      Wins for my side: things that happen that I agree with
      Wins for their side: things that happen that anyone on their side agrees with

      Unless your side is overwhelmingly winning, it seems that they are losing, even if they are not.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      This is totally irrelevant, but are you German by any chance? The inverted first quotation marks seem really german to me.

      Anyway, my answer is that America has been moving in a more neoliberal / neoconservative direction. To the left that looks like losing ground economically year after year. To the right the same movement looks like losing ground culturally year after year. The populist right gets it from both barrels: from their perspective they’ve been losing economically and culturally all this time.

      The big changes for the last half-century economically have been the stagnation of real wages, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and the collapse of the unions. Culturally the biggest changes are the skyrocketing divorce rate, the crime wave that’s more-or-less stuck around since the 60’s*, and the growth of sexual harassment / PC in academic and corporate culture. The economic growth has been concentrated among the people who are the most insulated from cultural changes, and ordinary people blame each other for voting for the wrong members of that elite class.

      *Our murder rate per 100,000 people in 2015 was 4.9, compared to 5.1 in 1965. That looks pretty boring, until you realize that 50 years of advances in trauma medicine haven’t lowered the murder rate at all. If we take those figures into account, that means our inflation-adjusted murder rate is almost 15 per 100,000. And this was all pre-Black Lives Matter.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I agree with your basic premise that the populist right sees regression the most. Although I think there are some nuances there that I think you would reject, and that has to do with how multi-cuturalism and populism intersect.

        The divorce rate sky-rocketed at one point, but has it continued to climb? Perhaps you mean marriage rates are falling? That feels true, but I’m not sure how true it actually is.

        I disagree about the crime wave analysis. When you look at crime rates within demographic bands you some striking changes (the biggest recent rises in crime are in older white people, whereas rates for younger people are falling).

        • Randy M says:

          Age at first marriage has increased; I think that would be consistent with marriage rates dropping then leveling off?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But it would also be consistent with absolute marriage rates staying exactly the same, yes?

            In other words, I don’t trust that my subjective impression of marriage rates is actually true. And when I look at this graph from the relevant wikipedia article it seems consistent with a story where ~97% people will get married at some point in their lives and its just a matter of when.

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, it’s probably compatible with absolute marriage rates going up, down, or staying constant.

            Although it seems logical to hypothesize that there is some underlying attitudinal/economic change that leads to all of lower marriage rates, later marriage, and more frequent divorce, one set of data doesn’t prove the other.

        • Aapje says:

          @HeelBearCub

          It seems that people are postponing marriage, which does obviously keep divorce rates down, but from a conservative Christian perspective, isn’t it worse to have all this unmarried fornication than more divorce?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            Oh sure. That’s likely along the lines of what Dealgood meant. But the original statement of “skyrocketing divorce rates” doesn’t quite convey that.

            I mean, if I had to take a guess, it’s not just sex outside of marriage, but the absence of an expectation that every man and every woman should be permanently coupled to a breadwinner/homemaker from about 20 years of age until death.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Divorce rates and crime are similar stories: a huge spike in the late twentieth century, which has since settled into a new high plateau.

          Divorce rates in 2014 were 3.2 per 1,000 people as opposed to 2.5 per 1,000 in 1965. And, as you note, a lot of the recent “decline” in divorce rates isn’t due to increased stability of marriage but that marriage is rarer. Everyone has already heard this statistic before, but 40-50% of marriages ending in divorce is a serious problem.

          It all comes down to stability. Without a secure foundation, you can’t build a family or put down roots anywhere. That applies to both cultural and economic changes which disrupt family formation. I think most people would agree that that’s a problem: ordinary liberals aren’t out to abolish the family, they want to live the good life as much as conservatives in my experience.

          (I probably shouldn’t have said “skyrocketing,” that was a bit hyperbolic. But the point is that it’s high now, it’s a hell of a lot higher than it used to be, and it looks unlikely to return to the old normal anytime soon.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            Everyone has already heard this statistic before, but 40-50% of marriages ending in divorce is a serious problem.

            The other half end in death, which doesn’t seem so much better.

            From a family stability point of view, this actually makes a difference; if more marriages are ending after the kids grow up, it’s not a problem at all.

      • cassander says:

        >Anyway, my answer is that America has been moving in a more neoliberal / neoconservative direction. To the left that looks like losing ground economically year after year.

        Every year, spending on social programs increases. new entitlements are added regularly, old ones expanded. the amount of federal regulation increases continuously. taxes get more progressive and increase. The last major neo-liberal achievement in the US was welfare reform, now 20 years ago.

        >The big changes for the last half-century economically have been the stagnation of real wages,

        wages!= compensation. these figures are misleading.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Certain battles have been largely won by the left. Certain other battles have largely been won by the right. But each side concentrates on their losses, and on the horrors of losing their gains.

          • cassander says:

            other than gun control, what battle has been won by the right? I’m genuinely curious what you think they’ve won. And by won, I mean, they asked for something, got it, and are now asking for things that they previously would not have asked for.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Democrats have adopted much of the conservative facts about economics over the past generation. All Obama had to do was nothing, and the Bush tax cuts would have expired on everyone. Instead, he had to go make sure they didn’t hurt “the poor” which was suddenly “people making less than $400,000.”

            Conservatives are worried that the Democrats never really bought into this and via Bernie Sanders were going to unleash some socialist nightmare. This is pretty much the same with liberals thinking that the Republicans have been big fakers on racism because they just elected Nazi Trump.

          • cassander says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            >Democrats have adopted much of the conservative facts about economics over the past generation.

            you could maybe make this claim in the 90s, when NYT editorial page was coming out against the minimum wage, but even if it was true then, it certainly isn’t true now.

            >All Obama had to do was nothing, and the Bush tax cuts would have expired on everyone. Instead, he had to go make sure they didn’t hurt “the poor” which was suddenly “people making less than $400,000.”

            And all the republicans had to do to kill the import export bank was nothing. They couldn’t. And while Obama did sign on to parts of the bush tax cuts, he raised plenty of other taxes. taxes right now are running at about 18% of GDP, slightly above the post Korean war average.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t know about you, but I saw my taxes raised under Obama, and I have always made < $400,000/year. In particular, there was the Obamacare surcharge and the investment income surcharge.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            The extension of the Bush tax cuts wasn’t something Obama wanted; it was payment he offered in return for an extension of unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut. (For a bunch of mustache-twirling obstructionist villains, the Republicans proved surprisingly cooperative– on this rare occasion where they were offered something they actually liked.)

          • Democrats have adopted much of the conservative facts about economics over the past generation.

            The pro-market side won the intellectual fight in a number of areas, due in part to the failed predictions of Keynesians with regard to the connection between inflation and unemployment (the Phillips Curve), in part to the failure of poor countries that tried to develop via central planning supported by foreign aid and the success of the relatively laissez-faire countries, in part to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the evidence that it had not been doing nearly as well as many economists had claimed.

            But I don’t see that there was a large effect on U.S. policy as a result. There were a few big wins, such as airline deregulation (pushed by a pro-market Democrat economist). But regulation overall has trended up, not down, government spending relative to GNP has not fallen. Abolishing the minimum wage isn’t even in the Overton Window, although it’s the obvious position for an economist to take, and greatly increasing it is.

            The big change was outside of the U.S., with China the most extreme example.

          • Iain says:

            The significant decline of unions seems pretty relevant here.

          • Aapje says:

            @Friedman

            IMHO, you are falsely portraying libertarian ideals as ‘the right.’

            There has been an increase in corporate welfare, much of which definitely does not align with common left-wing ideals.

            Face it, much of the right loves regulation and spending increases for those they favor (although they tend to be even more unwilling than the left to tax enough to cover their spending).

          • 1soru1 says:

            > taxes right now are running at about 18% of GDP, slightly above the post Korean war average.

            It does seem telling that the party usually labelled conservative considers things staying the same to be a defeat.

          • Aapje says:

            @1soru1

            It does seem telling that the party usually labelled conservative considers things staying the same to be a defeat.

            That makes sense if they want the government to be a specific size relative to the population, rather than relative to the GDP. If I’m not mistaken, the latter has grown faster than the former, so government spending per capita has gone up.

          • suntzuanime says:

            It does seem telling that the party usually labelled conservative considers things staying the same to be a defeat.

            I have some bad news for you about how the party usually labelled liberal feels about your freedoms…

          • 1soru1 says:

            Not really; liberalism (US sense) is all about maximising total freedom, which is obviously going to require some to lose freedom in exchange for others gaining it (e.g. taxes paying for education, gay marriage). That’s been a consistent summary of Democratic principles since at least the 1930s.

            The supportable alternative to that is to minimize changes in freedoms, never to take away what has once been granted, even it would probably be for the greater good. That would, as recently as the 1990’s, have been an accurate summary of the principles of the Republican party.

            Obviously, it no longer is, which is a source of some confusion. The fact that Republicans no longer know what they stand for is presumably why they are unable to produce a fact-based narrative supporting that position.

          • Aapje says:

            @1soru1

            liberalism (US sense) is all about maximising total freedom

            Except the freedoms that are consider harmful to others, which is a fairly long list.

            This idea that you are the one who is in favor of maximizing freedom while the outgroup is totalitarian, is one of the tribalist fictions that does wonders for your self-esteem, but is utter bollocks.

            I’ve never met a sane person who doesn’t want to limit freedoms. Do you want to ban pedophilic sex? Yes? Congratulations, you are:
            A. Not a horrible person
            B. Not in favor of maximizing freedom

            Own it. Don’t lie to yourself.

          • Matt M says:

            Income taxes are also infinity percent higher than they were in 1912.

            Don’t arbitrarily cherry-pick certain dates in order to score cheap points against the “other side.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            which is obviously going to require some to lose freedom in exchange for others gaining it (e.g. taxes paying for education, gay marriage).

            Funny, before gay marriage was brought in I distinctly remember being told multiple times that only gay people who wanted to get married would be affected, and that anybody who thought that otherwise was a paranoid lunatic. Cynical though I am, I do admit to being slightly surprised at just how quickly this has been flushed down the memory hole in favour of “Obviously some freedoms are zero-sum, now get in line, bigot.”

          • 1soru1 says:

            > Do you want to ban pedophilic sex? Yes?

            I think you are failing to get the Liberal position (which, btw, I certainly don’t agree with, and is probably not fully logically self-consistent, but does exist).

            Raping a child diminishes the freedom of the child by a greater degree than it benefits the rapist. Other sex acts that don’t diminish net freedom shouldn’t be banned.

            That rule 100% determines the list of sex acts that Liberals approve of versus want to see banned, with an appropriately-sized area in the middle where the exact trade-off and practicalities of a ban are up for debate.

            I’m not sure there is one distinctive policy of the US Democrats that can’t be plausibly defended by the argument from greater net freedom. And I don’t think that proves too much; few if any Republican policies have a similar justification on those terms.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > Income taxes are also infinity percent higher than they were in 1912.

            Picking a date from before universal suffrage is also a political choice. Is it one you are prepared to own?

          • Wrong Species says:

            @1soru1

            Anything can be justified when you talk about “greater net freedom”.

            “I’m not banning hate speech because I hate freedom but because I want to promote it.”

          • Aapje says:

            @1soru1

            I think you are failing to get the Liberal position (which, btw, I certainly don’t agree with, and is probably not fully logically self-consistent, but does exist).

            No, I’m calling you out on linguistic games that fairly arbitrarily define some restrictive laws as increasing freedom and other restrictive laws as reducing freedom; and thereby misrepresent the terminal values of large groups of people.

            Raping a child diminishes the freedom of the child by a greater degree than it benefits the rapist.

            Pedophilic sex doesn’t have to be violent rape. It can be consensual sex, which is why it is such a good example, because banning that completely requires a rationalization where you ignore the stated preferences of both involved people, because you believe that you know better than them what is good for them (or at least, one of the people involved).

            So any defense of age of consent laws requires a justification that is based on a judgement of what is good for people, which is inherently no different from the kind of argument that is used by non-liberals to ban things they dislike.

            Of course, not all these justifications are equal, as some are based on shitty evidence and others on good evidence, but even there it is not always the liberals that have better evidence than others (every political movement has dogma and delusions).

            Ergo, ‘liberalism (US sense) is all about maximising total freedom’ is a thing that delusional people say; where these people start with the dogma that ‘I am for maximizing total freedom’ and then frame their beliefs in such a way that fit this narrative; while framing the beliefs of their opponents in such a way that they appear to conflict with this narrative.

          • Matt M says:

            “Picking a date from before universal suffrage is also a political choice. Is it one you are prepared to own?”

            Careful now. Putting my own opinions aside, there are certainly some alt-right voices that have followed this line of thought to a certain logical conclusion…

          • 1soru1 says:

            > Anything can be justified when you talk about “greater net freedom”.

            Anything _can_ be justified by any type of argument. The question is how reality-based that justification is; does it follow straightforwardly from the most obvious and easily tested facts, does it require cleverly cherry-picking obscure historical examples, or does it require simply making shit up?

            For example, justifying opposition to gay marriage follows naturally from many points of view. But ‘greater net freedom’ is not of of them. Doing so would regard treating a 3-4 day-long cases of freedom loss nationwide (e.g. being obliged to bake a cake) as greater than a multitude of decade-long instances of not having the freedom to marry.

            A recognizably liberal justification for slavery was common at the time; it fell out of favor when the assessment of the underlying facts changed.

            A liberal justification for widely-scoped bans on hate speech is less difficult to make than a liberal case against gay marriage, but still pretty hard. Which is why you will find hardly any actual liberals proposing such things.

            If you think otherwise, then congratulations are due to whoever successfully lied to you.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Doing so would regard treating a 3-4 day-long cases of freedom loss nationwide (e.g. being obliged to bake a cake) as greater than a multitude of decade-long instances of not having the freedom to marry.

            Of course, not obliging anybody to bake cakes would result in even more freedom; but for some reason, the party of “increasing net freedom” seems to be vehemently against it. I wonder why that is.

          • 1soru1 says:

            No doubt you disagree, but my impression is that if someone could persuade the average liberal that there was a viable alternative that led to a net freedom gain, they would agree to it.

            It just seems really hard to do so when the freedom loss you are trying to avoid is measured in perhaps 2-digit man-days nationally. Which is almost certain to be smaller than the net effect from all the extra regulations and court cases involved in finding a definition of gay marriage that somehow existed, but didn’t unnecessarily force anyone to recognize it’s existence.

            In contrast, few liberals are in favor of forcing religious organisations that don’t want to to perform gay marriage; it’s hard, if not impossible, to justify that as a net increase in freedom.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It just seems really hard to do so when the freedom loss you are trying to avoid is measured in perhaps 2-digit man-days nationally.

            The freedom loss isn’t to do with the amount of time someone does something, it’s to do with the fact that you’re forcing them to do something they consider gravely immoral.

            Which is almost certain to be smaller than the net effect from all the extra regulations and court cases involved in finding a definition of gay marriage that somehow existed, but didn’t unnecessarily force anyone to recognize it’s existence.

            Just don’t drive people out of business for declining to cater for gay weddings. Doesn’t sound at all difficult to me.

            Anyway, this is all a bit tangential to my point, which is that the original claim was that there would be no trade-off at all; that gay marriage could be implemented without reducing anybody’s freedom.

          • random832 says:

            It just seems really hard to do so when the freedom loss you are trying to avoid is measured in perhaps 2-digit man-days nationally. Which is almost certain to be smaller than the net effect from all the extra regulations and court cases involved in finding a definition of gay marriage that somehow existed, but didn’t unnecessarily force anyone to recognize it’s existence.

            What is “forced to recognize its existence”?

            On the one hand (particularly for churches as venues, not so much bakers, which are not generally religious institutions) I’m sympathetic because I think The original Mr. X is correct when he points out “I distinctly remember being told multiple times that only gay people who wanted to get married would be affected”.

            On the other hand, it’s not entirely clear why this is new at all – why it’s any different from a coffee shop refusing to sell to a gay person, or a bakery refusing to sell a cake to a gay person for any other purpose (which could include other celebrations of their relationship), or, for that matter, for an interracial wedding, or one between two people of a race or religion different than the baker’s own, etc.

            It seems like an attempt to “relitigate” not being allowed to discriminate against gay people, by claiming that there is something special about weddings. You’re already forced to sell them birthday cakes. That’s a decision that we made, collectively as a society, a long time ago. Why’s a wedding cake different? It’s not like you have to eat it.

            Anyway, this is all a bit tangential to my point, which is that the original claim was that there would be no trade-off at all; that gay marriage could be implemented without reducing anybody’s freedom.

            What freedom is it that you believe they had before that is being reduced? Sexual orientation as a protected class already existed. Businesses being required not to discriminate already existed. What’s new?

          • 1soru1 says:

            > Just don’t drive people out of business for declining to cater for gay weddings. Doesn’t sound at all difficult to me.

            What’s your concrete proposal to do this? Track all purchases by everyone, penalize those who make less than a statistically-plausible proportion of purchases from anti-gay-wedding shops? How is that not a vast decrease in net freedom?

            It seems to me in this case you are trying to argue from welfare, rather than freedom. A shop going out of business, because it fails in marketing to its customer base, is certainly bad for the owners, and maybe bad for society as a whole.

            Is letting that happen a price of freedom you are unwilling to pay? Then fair enough, you are not a liberal. You probably knew that.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            For example, justifying opposition to gay marriage follows naturally from many points of view. But ‘greater net freedom’ is not of of them. Doing so would regard treating a 3-4 day-long cases of freedom loss nationwide (e.g. being obliged to bake a cake) as greater than a multitude of decade-long instances of not having the freedom to marry.

            I would be wary of just throwing around an utilitarian-calculus-like comparisons, because minorities (particularly the fringier ones), don’t fare very well there.

          • Eltargrim says:

            @random832:

            You’re already forced to sell them birthday cakes. That’s a decision that we made, collectively as a society, a long time ago.

            Uh, since when? There are still many states without such explicit protections, and the cake case being discussed has barely had the dust settle.

          • random832 says:

            Uh, since when? There are still many states without such explicit protections, and the cake case being discussed has barely had the dust settle.

            I took at face value that they, and people in this discussion, wouldn’t be making the argument that wedding cakes are special unless they had no other way to make their case, because of how transparently flimsy the argument is. If it were legal in general, in whatever jurisdiction this happened in, to discriminate against gay people, there wouldn’t even have been a case.

            If you’re not willing to entertain arguments that wedding cakes are not special, it seems unreasonable for you (note: I know this was not you, but your side of this argument) to say things like “it’s to do with the fact that you’re forcing them to do something they consider gravely immoral.” I reject that baking a cake is something they consider gravely immoral. I reject that selling a product to a gay person is something they consider gravely immoral, since this never seems to happen to Christians who own coffee shops. So, what exactly is the thing they consider gravely immoral?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            1soru1 – “In contrast, few liberals are in favor of forcing religious organisations that don’t want to to perform gay marriage; it’s hard, if not impossible, to justify that as a net increase in freedom.”

            Few liberals were in favor of forcing people to bake wedding cakes as recently as five or ten years ago. Why is performing marriages different?

            If the consensus among liberals changes to being in favor of forcing religious institutions to perform gay marriage, will you be opposed to that consensus? If so, why?

            @random832 – “So, what exactly is the thing they consider gravely immoral?”

            Participating in/facilitating the wedding, obviously. Weddings aren’t toasters, and neither are the materials used in them. They’re a communal ritual, and the cake, photos etc are part of that communal ritual. What is being objected to is not the selling of a product, but the participation in/condoning of the ritual.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @random832:

            You’re already forced to sell them birthday cakes. That’s a decision that we made, collectively as a society, a long time ago. Why’s a wedding cake different? It’s not like you have to eat it.

            Erm, because they think that gay marriage is immoral, but don’t think that birthday parties are? That seems like the obvious response.

            @1soru1:

            What’s your concrete proposal to do this?

            Legally, don’t fine people for not baking cakes. Culturally, don’t whip up online hate mobs against people for not baking cakes. I don’t think either of these things are either particularly difficult to understand, or particularly onerous to do (not least because you wouldn’t actually be *doing* anything).

          • random832 says:

            Erm, because they think that gay marriage is immoral, but don’t think that birthday parties are? That seems like the obvious response.

            If they think gay marriage is immoral they’re free to refrain from having one. Selling a cake does not make someone a party to the marriage. Only the people being married (and perhaps the officiant and the witnesses) are. There is nowhere to write the baker’s name on a marriage license.

            The cake usually isn’t even served at the ceremony, but at the reception.

          • smocc says:

            @random

            The cases that are defensible do not claim that baking a cake is immoral. The claim is that writing or sending a message is immoral. Imagine you own a cake shop and someone places an order for their local Neo-Nazi group’s celebration of Hitler’s birthday and wants you to write make a swastika-shaped cake decorated with the words “Happy birthday, Hitler. F*** ****s, Gas Jews, White Power”

            How would you feel about that? Would you like to have the legal option of refusing to make such a cake? If you don’t care, would you sympathize with someone who does?

          • Matt M says:

            In contrast, few liberals are in favor of forcing religious organisations that don’t want to to perform gay marriage;

            I don’t think this is a given. I’ve been saying for at least 10 years now on every one-off “gay rights” issue that comes up: “They will not stop here, they will keep pushing for more.” I’ve specifically predicted that they will not stop until catholic ministers are forced to perform gay wedding ceremonies.

            Nobody is agitating for that specific thing now because there is still lower hanging fruit, but just you wait. They’ll get there. They’ve won victory after victory and have never once said “Well, that’s enough, we have what we want, the battle is over.” It’s not designed to be a battle that ends until it is literally impossible to for anyone to disagree with homosexuality in any way.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Trivially, liberals couldn’t hold such a consensus with the facts being anything like they are. As people who who hold such views, in the face of such facts, are not liberals.

            Obviously, the Democrat party could be taken over by the One True Church of the Gay Jesus and start oppressing apostates. Or the facts could change in some non-obvious way which meant it made liberal sense to impose such a restriction.

            I hate to explain the obvious, but if you don’t understand the above, you don’t understand liberals. Quite likely you are correspondingly confused as to why they are against Muslim-oriented immigration restrictions, when Muslims are overwhelmingly at least anti-gay marriage (and commonly more).

          • random832 says:

            The cases that are defensible do not claim that baking a cake is immoral. The claim is that writing or sending a message is immoral.

            I don’t think most wedding cakes have writing on them, and I’m hesitant to accept an expansive definition of “sending a message” that goes beyond that. I don’t think that being willing to sell someone a wedding cake does send a message.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > I’ve been saying for at least 10 years now on every one-off “gay rights” issue that comes up: “They will not stop here, they will keep pushing for more.”

            And you have been right, because every change so far has been freedom-maximising, and so supportable in principle by non-gays who agree with that principle.

            Your model suggests that there is no such stopping point. So that at some point there will be a call for mandatory gay sex, and sometime after that heterosexuality will be banned.

            I could be wrong, but I suspect your model deviates from reality somewhere before then.

          • Eltargrim says:

            @random

            Don’t presume my side in this. I object to your characterizing non-discrimination laws with respect to orientation as “a decision we made collectively, a long time ago.” Collectively, the United States has done very little with respect to LGBT protections, and very little of it could be determined collectively. Laws are wildly different state-by-state, and often vary hugely within a state. Temporally, Lawrence v. Texas was barely a decade ago; Obergefell v. Hodges was less than two years ago. Discrimination against sexual orientation is still firmly within the Overton window of the United States as a whole, and it’s really recently that things have been starting to change. Hell, the wedding cake case in question was in Colorado, which only added sexual orientation as a protected class in 2008.

            This is not a long-settled area of law and practise; it’s a recent phenomenon, and one that could be changed in relatively short order. This is not a time for LGBT interest groups to rest on their laurels.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @random832:

            If they think gay marriage is immoral they’re free to refrain from having one. Selling a cake does not make someone a party to the marriage. Only the people being married (and perhaps the officiant and the witnesses) are. There is nowhere to write the baker’s name on a marriage license.

            Think of it as like the legal charge of being an accessory to a crime. Even if you don’t directly take part in, e.g., a bank robbery, you’re still considered to share the guilt if you knowingly assist people to rob a bank, even if what you do is not, taken in isolation, wrong. (E.g., giving a lift to people isn’t normally wrong; it is if you’re acting as a getaway driver.)

          • FacelessCraven says:

            1soru1 – “Trivially, liberals couldn’t hold such a consensus with the facts being anything like they are. As people who who hold such views, in the face of such facts, are not liberals.”

            I’m not really interested in arguing what a “liberal” is. I’ll happily admit to using the wrong term, and substitute it for “progressive” or “blue tribe” or whichever other label you prefer for “culturally dominant pro-gay population”.

            That being said, which facts being as they are make this impossible? What pressures are acceptable to bring to bear against bigoted organizations?

            “I hate to explain the obvious, but if you don’t understand the above, you don’t understand liberals.”

            That’s entirely possible. I mean, I actually *was* one for like a decade, but clearly things have changed quite a bit. The switch from Rousseau quotes to “freeze peach” was a particularly disconcerting shift, for instance. You seem to have a lot more faith in the victory of abstract principles over political expediency than I do.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @1soru1

            When you can come up with some objective way of measuring net freedom, let me know. Until then I’m not just going to take your word for it. From where I’m standing, it doesn’t look like a principled stand so much as a justification for politics as usual. You talk about “actual liberals”. Meanwhile, more and more people on the left keep buying in to these arguments. So would the ideal Platonic liberal agree to hate speech laws? Maybe not, but that has little to do with the reality of the situation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @1soru1:

            Your model suggests that there is no such stopping point. So that at some point there will be a call for mandatory gay sex, and sometime after that heterosexuality will be banned.

            Actually, his model does suggest an end: when it’s impossible to criticise homosexuality.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @random832 – ” Only the people being married (and perhaps the officiant and the witnesses) are.”

            Are you serious? The guests aren’t part of a wedding? Declining an invitation isn’t a snub?

            Why, in your opinion, do wedding dresses, cake, photos, locations and so on cost so much more than non-wedding versions of these things?

            “I don’t think most wedding cakes have writing on them, and I’m hesitant to accept an expansive definition of “sending a message” that goes beyond that. I don’t think that being willing to sell someone a wedding cake does send a message.”

            An unforgettable day deserves unforgettable cake!
            From the most elegant and traditional wedding cake styles to modern or even whimsical cakes, we’ll work with you to create a wedding cake that will be a beautiful reflection of you and your wedding theme.

            …grabbed at random from a wedding cake website.

            Wedding cakes are not toasters. They are custom art. Art is by definition expression, ie a message, ie speech. This is the entire reason that wedding cake bakeries are a thing, and why they can charge so much for their product. They aren’t selling a mass-produced interchangeable commodity, they’re selling their skill as an artist to make a unique piece of art explicitly to celebrate someone’s marriage. That implies approval of the marriage, as you are helping to facilitate and commemorate it.

            You’d have a far stronger argument for the pizza joint that was asked for catering. But as above, even guests who do nothing but walk in, sit for a couple hours, and walk out are participating in the ritual. Ignoring this seems to involve a willful blindness to the realities of human interaction.

          • random832 says:

            Are you serious? The guests aren’t part of a wedding? Declining an invitation isn’t a snub?

            I said they’re not part of the marriage. And therefore wouldn’t be doing anything immoral by showing up to a wedding for a marriage that is (according to someone’s belief system) itself immoral. None of them (neither the baker) has the power to stop the marriage (or force a substitute to be found for their role) by not participating, therefore their participation does not enable anything they may consider immoral. (Which is why I conceded the witnesses and officiant)

            Why, in your opinion, do wedding dresses, cake, photos, locations and so on cost so much more than non-wedding versions of these things?

            Honestly? A mix of naked price-gouging and hedging against somewhat higher risk of customer dissatisfaction. I don’t see how any of that supports your argument service providers should be perceived as celebrating though. You’re here to get paid, nobody thinks you give a damn about the happy couple.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t think most wedding cakes have writing on them, and I’m hesitant to accept an expansive definition of “sending a message” that goes beyond that.

            To grab another example from a recent thread, you wouldn’t then say anti-flag burning laws impinge on speech, would you? As long as the flag doesn’t have writing on it.

          • random832 says:

            You cannot conclude that I do not think one thing is speech on the basis that I do not think another thing is speech. The rule I actually had in mind for selling someone a wedding cake not being speech (and therefore it not being “compulsory speech” to be compelled to) is that they are being paid at the market rate for their services, not that it does not have writing on it.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > You seem to have a lot more faith in the victory of abstract principles over political expediency than I do.

            I am not making predictions, especially about the future.

            I am merely pointing out that ITYOL 2017, all policy positions actually held by the Democratic Party of the USA are plausibly justifiable by fact-based arguments from a single underlying principle; freedom-maximization.

            And you can’t do that with alternate rules such as welfare maximization, fixed rule-following, change minimization, or whatever.

            In contrast, the opposing Republican Party has no such single underlying principle, so is unable to construct a fact-based narrative. Admittedly, events have shown that they don’t really need one, but that would not have been foreseeable in advance; I am sure if they could have found one, they would have used it before opting for Trump.

          • Nornagest says:

            A horse’s head left in someone’s bed does not have writing on it, but I don’t think you can say it doesn’t send a message.

          • John Schilling says:

            The rule I actually had in mind for selling someone a wedding cake not being speech is that they are being paid at the market rate for their services

            So, the actions of professional journalists are not “speech” and not protected by e.g. the first amendment?

          • random832 says:

            So, the actions of professional journalists are not “speech” and not protected by e.g. the first amendment?

            Their willingness to work for their employer isn’t itself speech. Remember, the contention I am arguing against is that being willing to sell someone a product expresses approval of their actions.

          • Aapje says:

            A horse’s head left in someone’s bed does not have writing on it, but I don’t think you can say it doesn’t send a message.

            ‘I hate horses.’

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Remember, the contention I am arguing against is that being willing to sell someone a product expresses approval of their actions.

            Do you think it would be OK to sell a gun to a known murderer, on the grounds that selling someone a gun isn’t intrinsically wrong and that willingness to sell someone a gun doesn’t imply approbation of what he does with it?

          • cassander says:

            @Aapje says:

            >There has been an increase in corporate welfare, much of which definitely does not align with common left-wing ideals.

            I disagree there. How many left wingers have campaigned for green energy subsidies, wage subsides, ect.? Don’t pretend the left doesn’t love this game.

            >Face it, much of the right loves regulation and spending increases for those they favor (although they tend to be even more unwilling than the left to tax enough to cover their spending).

            No right winger in the country would ever disagree with the notion that our politicians are unprincipled sellouts.

            @1soru1 says:

            >It does seem telling that the party usually labelled conservative considers things staying the same to be a defeat.

            If the left would stop pretending that taxes are lower than in the past, and stop agitating to raise them, I’d call it a victory. Until then, it’s just an ongoing struggle.

            @random832 says:

            >If they think gay marriage is immoral they’re free to refrain from having one.

            If you think lynching people is immoral, you’re free not to lynch anyone. Granted, I think the metaphor works better for the abortion debate, but it’s really all purpose for this sort of argument.

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X
            I believe some gun rights activists would argue something along those lines.

          • Nornagest says:

            I believe some gun rights activists would argue something along those lines.

            You do see stuff close to that argument in the wild sometimes, but I don’t think it reflects a sincere commitment to the underlying principle so much as a fear of heading down a slippery slope. The gun-rights community has essentially zero trust in its opponents, so even the most seemingly benign proposals tend to be parsed as the narrow end of an expanding wedge of restrictions.

            I’m not sure how good the analogy to the cake thing is.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            I disagree there. How many left wingers have campaigned for green energy subsidies, wage subsides, ect.? Don’t pretend the left doesn’t love this game.

            The left tends to want to couple this with extra taxes on companies, making this an instrument of policy, rather than corporate welfare in an absolute sense.

            We probably have a different frame of reference here, where you look at all financial regulation and I look at the total percentage of benefits going to business vs individuals.

            No right winger in the country would ever disagree with the notion that our politicians are unprincipled sellouts.

            Plenty of voters seem equally unprincipled.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The point about gun rights illustrates yet another dimension along which a lot of liberals (US sense) aren’t maximizing freedom. (Fortunately, a lot of them seem to be backing down from gun control.)

            In general, I have a very hard time entertaining the argument that an American liberal is all about maximizing freedom in light of their zeal in advocating the infringement association rights, speech rights, commerce rights, education rights, and probably a few others that aren’t coming to mind right now. (Which is not to imply that American conservatives are “all about maximizing liberty”, either.)

          • suntzuanime says:

            I was mostly just making a joke about how shallow that sort of etymology-based political analysis is. Liberals don’t want harmful liberties, conservatives don’t want to conserve harmful things, and it’s actually not remotely “telling”, because etymology is not destiny and words mean things on their own. I apologize for the derail I sparked.

          • Civilis says:

            I am merely pointing out that ITYOL 2017, all policy positions actually held by the Democratic Party of the USA are plausibly justifiable by fact-based arguments from a single underlying principle; freedom-maximization.

            It sounds like you are arguing from your favored end-state, and trying to make facts fit. ‘I like freedom’ and ‘I am a Democrat’, therefore ‘all Democratic policies are pro-freedom’. Policies inevitably are the end result of balancing multiple factors; for simplicity’s sake, we’ll use a traditional mix of liberty (or freedom), equality and brotherhood (or community). If the Democrats are for equality or community, then obviously they’re not maximizing freedom.

            Admittedly, I’m on the right, and I can’t always do a perfect job of mapping Democratic positions, but framing opposition to school vouchers, for example, as pro-freedom requires me to twist the definition of ‘freedom’ to Harrison Bergeron levels. It’s much easier to justify Democratic school policy as appealing to equality (everyone gets forced into crappy schools) or community (those evil homeschoolers can’t be permitted to escape the left’s values).

          • Civilis says:

            The left tends to want to couple this with extra taxes on companies, making this an instrument of policy, rather than corporate welfare in an absolute sense.

            We probably have a different frame of reference here, where you look at all financial regulation and I look at the total percentage of benefits going to business vs individuals.

            Neither side wants corporate welfare in an absolute sense. Politicians on both sides want to get re-elected, which means getting jobs in their districts to keep their constituents happy, which means keeping their employers happy. They also need money to run campaigns, which requires people to be willing to part with their money. And it also helps to be able to know people that know people. None of that is likely to be freely given.

            That help might not be in terms of crony subsidies, it might be in the form of restrictions to make competing products by companies / industries that don’t know how to work with congress more expensive, if not illegal, such as incandescent light bulbs. Yes, there’s always a rationalization, but the fact that the people suggesting this change (and loss of freedom) make money selling competitors to incandescent light bulbs sure is convenient.

            “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”

          • 1soru1 says:

            > framing opposition to school vouchers, for example, as pro-freedom requires me to twist the definition of ‘freedom’ to Harrison Bergeron levels

            Then you genuinely don’t understand how and why liberals use the term. Please don’t treat your ignorance as a badge of superiority.

            If liberals followed some other principle, like social democracy, they would be equally against home schooling, charter schools, etc. Only school vouchers have the effect of 1:1 transferring money out of a fixed-size public school system, and so inevitably lessening the freedom of those relying on it by a greater degree than the gains for the few in the program.

            Notice how it is, to a liberal, more important that the public school provides the _opportunity_ for a good education, for anyone willing to take it, than that it provides good outcomes. Unlike with a leftist, net freedom matters, not welfare. Which certainly has a failure mode of a school with a well-stocked library and riots in the hallway.

          • Civilis says:

            Then you genuinely don’t understand how and why liberals use the term. Please don’t treat your ignorance as a badge of superiority.

            Rather than make the obvious Orwell joke, I’ll ask you for a definition of freedom, because having choices taken away is generally considered the opposite of freedom. The quick dictionary definition of freedom is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” If one is forced to pay for both a sub-standard public education via taxes (and, by definition, half of all education will be below average) and a private education in order to get a decent education, one’s freedom is necessarily taken away.

            The problem is that school choice doesn’t take away the opportunity for kids to receive a decent public school education. It just provides the freedom (there’s that word) of other options. Yes, the school system loses money. It also loses students, which cost the system money. And taxpayers without kids in the system (or the rich who already have kids in private schools, and spend more than the amount they otherwise would get from a voucher) will still be subsidizing the education of those that choose not to partake in a voucher. Freedom means letting people decide what they want to spend their money, the results of their work, on. Some people will chose to spend that money on their children, to get them the best education possible. Some will choose to spend their money on other things. That is freedom. Locking the poor that want to invest in their children’s education into paying for substandard public schooling is many things, but it’s definitely not letting them act without hindrance or restraint.

            There are good reasons one can support public education, freedom (at least according to most people’s definition) is not one of them.

            Also note, that despite my ignorance (as you so kindly put it), I chose to defend my original argument rather than move onto any of the other places where Democrats are not maximizing freedom (for a rational definition of freedom), be it gun control, occupational licensing, the minimum wage, opposition to right to work…

          • cassander says:

            @Aapje says:

            >The left tends to want to couple this with extra taxes on companies, making this an instrument of policy, rather than corporate welfare in an absolute sense.

            Sure, but that’s equally true of a right that wants to subsidize domestic employment, R&D spending, or whatever else. No one is in favor of corporate welfare on first principle, they’re just all in favor of other goals that in practice become corporate welfare.

            >We probably have a different frame of reference here, where you look at all financial regulation and I look at the total percentage of benefits going to business vs individuals.

            A distinction without difference. Corporations are ultimately owned by individuals, all benefits redound to them eventually.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            1soru1 is somewhat incorrect here. They are switching back and forth between negative and positive freedom (aka negative and positive liberty) and specifically claiming that positive freedom/liberty is the standard form in the liberal philosophical tradition (very much not true in the American context, where the liberal democratic tradition is based on writers and thinkers like Locke who emphasized negative freedom).

            The simplest contrast would be that negative is the freedom from exterior restraint or hindrance (free, to do what I want, any old time). Positive is having the capacity/power TO do things better or more. A good example of a politician explicitly promoting both would be FDR’s Four Freedoms (including freedom OF speech and freedom FROM want).

            The tradition that emphasizes positive freedom/liberty grew OUT of, but I’d argue is fundamentally different enough that it is now distinct FROM, the liberal tradition in the US (this is why libertarians sometimes emphasize things like “classical liberal”) and is mostly a 20th century phenomenon.

            To put it another way, a modern Democrat may be “Liberal” in the sense that everyone generally accepts them as the “liberal party of the United States”, but they really have no more a claim on that label as connected to the broader tradition than American conservatives do. Which is to say, a limited amount.

          • The rule I actually had in mind for selling someone a wedding cake not being speech (and therefore it not being “compulsory speech” to be compelled to) is that they are being paid at the market rate for their services, not that it does not have writing on it.

            I sometimes give public talks. Are you saying that if the Trump administration orders me to give a speech praising Trump, that isn’t compelled speech as long as they pay me my usual rate?

            That would seem a very odd position.

          • Montfort says:

            Are you saying that if the Trump administration orders me to give a speech praising Trump, that isn’t compelled speech as long as they pay me my usual rate?

            I think it would be strange to interpret that post as giving a complete list of criteria. In fact, random had earlier implied that compelling writing would amount to compelled speech, which I assume would hold for literal speech too.

            I think your reading would be improved as so: “The rule I actually had in mind… is that they are being paid at the market rate for their services, not [simply] that it does not have writing on it.” Random may also be reserving some room to say certain perfunctory writing or speech might not count, but that’s only speculation, and still quite a leap away from your hypothetical.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            No one is in favor of corporate welfare on first principle, they’re just all in favor of other goals that in practice become corporate welfare.

            No way. Agriculture subsidies and such are pretty transparently just rent seeking, especially if the proponents are free market advocates, where the rationalizations are clearly propaganda.

            From my perspective, the American left* is very heavily into using subsidies to make corporations behave how they want, while the right uses subsidies for corporations much more to reward their base (rent seeking); while pretty much the opposite is true when it comes to welfare (for example).

            * In France this is different

            A distinction without difference. Corporations are ultimately owned by individuals, all benefits redound to them eventually.

            As we don’t have communism, those corporations are not owned by ‘the people,’ but by a subset of citizens. That subset profits, not necessarily all citizens.

          • Anonymous says:

            Agriculture subsidies and such are pretty transparently just rent seeking

            I disagree. Agriculture subsidies have functions beyond electoral sausage to the farming lobby. The two major ones I see are:
            1) Keeping some portion of the population in the farming business (it’s not particularly lucrative or glamorous work), so the practical technology isn’t lost, leading to famines in case of unforeseen difficulties.
            2) Keeping the nutritional staples locally produced, in case something happens to external supply (war, coups, broken trade deals, famine, etc).

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            Is there any actual evidence that these goals are achieved by farming subsidies? For example, Australia has very low subsidies, yet is a major agricultural exporter with plenty of farmers and innovative practices.

            Farming subsidies greatly distort the free market. If you want to be safe(r) from famines, why not keep some food in warehouses?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            When was the last time America even came close to famine? You might as well argue it’s keeping us safe from tiger attacks.

            Agricultural subsidies are also massively harmful to the environment. We dump fossil fuels on corn and it washes out into the ocean creating a dead zone hundreds of square miles in area.

          • IrishDude says:

            You might as well argue it’s keeping us safe from tiger attacks.

            Ha!

          • Civilis says:

            Farming subsidies greatly distort the free market. If you want to be safe(r) from famines, why not keep some food in warehouses?

            In many cases, the farm subsidies are just that, buying surplus product to keep in warehouses. (http://money.cnn.com/2016/08/23/pf/government-cheese-surplus/)

            The basic idea is to flatten the supply (since farm output varies year to year) and keep prices stable by buying surplus product in good years. Eventually, producers get so used to having this support that it’s built into their business model.

          • Jiro says:

            If liberals followed some other principle, like social democracy, they would be equally against home schooling, charter schools, etc.

            Liberals are against home schooling, for social democracy type reasons, even.

            They are not against charter schools, but that’s because charter tools are used as a form of racial integration; whether they’re good for the students is entirely secondary.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Edward Scizorhands:

            When was the last time America even came close to famine?

            Surely you see the obvious flaw in that line of reasoning?

            It’s not proof that we need tiger prevention devices, but it also isn’t proof that we don’t need them.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If we were sacrificing 100 villagers every year to the Tiger Rock that keeps the people in the village from being killed by tigers, and no one has ever seen a tiger anywhere near the village, well, . . . hey, you aren’t in favor of people being killed by tigers, are you?

            Let’s sacrifice 80 people next year, and keep on that pace for a decade, and have people keep a watch to see if they even see tigers.

          • Civilis says:

            They are not against charter schools, but that’s because charter tools are used as a form of racial integration; whether they’re good for the students is entirely secondary.

            One of the problems I have is 1soru1 uses different terms at different points; his point I originally responded to was about the policies of the Democratic party, while here he’s talking about ‘liberals’ as distinct from ‘leftists’.

            The Democratic party policy is against charter schools, although some Democratic voters (such as inner city DC black parents, from my experience) are strongly in favor of charter schools / vouchers / school choice / anything that gets their kids out of the failed regular public school system. One of the reasons I objected to his original point is that political parties are formed as the amalgamation of interest groups with different values, and the policy of the party is an amalgamation of what those groups want in a scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours favor. Expecting any policy that results from such horse trading to have been derived from principle is naive. Teacher’s Unions are one of the largest and most powerful lobbying groups in the nation, and donate entirely to the Democrats, and so they have a lot of clout in getting the Democratic party policy to support the goals of the teachers union.

          • cassander says:

            @Aapje

            >No way. Agriculture subsidies and such are pretty transparently just rent seeking, especially if the proponents are free market advocates, where the rationalizations are clearly propaganda.

            Sure, to the informed person this is obvious. to the average voter, however, it’s “defending small family farms” or “ensuring food sovereignty” (I understand that the latter motive is popular in France.)

            >From my perspective, the American left* is very heavily into using subsidies to make corporations behave how they want, while the right uses subsidies for corporations much more to reward their base (rent seeking); while pretty much the opposite is true when it comes to welfare (for example).

            the first part of this is true, the second is not. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that both left and right are very good at coming up subsidies that influence companies to do what they want that just happen, by what I’m sure is total coincidence, to disproportionately reward their supporters. This is as true of oil companies giving to republicans as it is of solar companies giving to democrats. If anything the left is more interested in this sort of activity, simply because they’re ideologically pre-disposed to doing it. Right wing politicians, one hopes, will at least feel a little guilty about it.

            >As we don’t have communism, those corporations are not owned by ‘the people,’ but by a subset of citizens. That subset profits, not necessarily all citizens.

            I didn’t say all citizens, I said to the citizens that own them. Though since the most of largest holders of securities in the world are pension and retirement funds, “their owners” is a very broad swath of the citizens.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > Expecting any policy that results from such horse trading to have been derived from principle is naive.

            This is backwards from what I am claiming, which is that the point where the horse-trading stops is, under normal circumstances, going to be one that is is at least defensible under liberal terms. Because if it wasn’t, the ten other factions in the democrat coalition would outweigh the one. And if there is no such defensible spot to be found, that group would end up marginalized, or leaving the coalition.

            Which is roughly what happened with ‘coal miners’.

            This is fairly a weak claim; it is not saying that the point of compromise is optimal, or could be derived from first principles without negotiation. But it is not quite trivial; there are plenty of potential policies that can’t be so defended.

            For a similar example, given factions within the Libertarian party, you would expect them to reach a compromise of the form ‘we won’t spend tax-payer’s money on it’, if that made any sense at all.

          • The basic idea is to flatten the supply (since farm output varies year to year) and keep prices stable by buying surplus product in good years.

            Buying when supply is high and prices are low and selling in the reverse situation is the business model of speculators. It provides a mechanism for smoothing prices with no need for government involvement. You can tell whether they are doing it by whether they make money at it.

            The government agriculture program loses money. It’s purpose is not to smooth prices but to raise them.

          • Civilis says:

            This is backwards from what I am claiming, which is that the point where the horse-trading stops is, under normal circumstances, going to be one that is is at least defensible under liberal terms. Because if it wasn’t, the ten other factions in the democrat coalition would outweigh the one. And if there is no such defensible spot to be found, that group would end up marginalized, or leaving the coalition.

            What results is going to be the policy that is acceptable to most groups in the coalition (or their representatives; labor unions are notorious for advocating for what benefits the union leadership rather than the bulk of the union’s members). You also seem convinced that Democratic Party Policy is a fixed size pie. On the other hand, there’s no limit to the number of non-conflicting policies that can be lumped together in the party platform. Deciding to oppose School Choice doesn’t cost the environmentalists or the bankers or the tech gurus or the lawyers anything. Likewise, favoring the environmentalists over the coal miners doesn’t cost the teachers or lawyers or tech gurus anything. It does cost the other labor unions a bit, but where are they going to go? And all these policies sound good, especially when the promise is someone else is going to pay for it, so why not go for all of them?

            There’s a fundamental flaw in all this, and in progressive ideology in general, that you can somehow quantify rights at a level other than the individual; that you can somehow look at two sets of rights and decide that, even though you’ve taken my rights away and given more rights to someone else, that somehow I’m better off because the greater good is better off. You don’t have any better insight than I do on determining whether my freedom of speech is worth more or less than your right of assembly. As soon as you’ve justified taking someone’s rights away, you’ve lost any claim to maximize freedom. I don’t have the hubris to claim that I can possibly balance those rights for anyone else better than they can for themselves.

          • Aapje says:

            @Civilis

            In many cases, the farm subsidies are just that, buying surplus product to keep in warehouses.

            Your own link contradicts your claim, as it clearly states that the cheese is given away (which distorts the market).

            The basic idea is to flatten the supply (since farm output varies year to year) and keep prices stable by buying surplus product in good years.

            Which creates an incentive to overproduce, so then you see production limits to keep it down, which in turn punishes efficient producers.

            There are also plenty of agricultural subsidies that are given out in both the good and bad years. A lot are not price floors and even the ones that are, are normally way above what the market would settle on.

        • smocc says:

          @random

          I don’t think most wedding cakes have writing on them, and I’m hesitant to accept an expansive definition of “sending a message” that goes beyond that. I don’t think that being willing to sell someone a wedding cake does send a message.

          I’m not talking about wedding cakes that don’t have messages written on them (though I may be talking about wedding cakes that have two groom figures on them). I agree that it’s possible to have an over-expansive definition of “sending a message” and we should be careful, but again, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about cases where it is at pretty plausibly clear that a message is being sent or at least condoned.

          You didn’t engage with my hypothetical and I wish you would.

          • random832 says:

            You didn’t engage with my hypothetical and I wish you would.

            I was honestly a bit miffed at “defensible cases” – it’s poor form to steelman your own argument.

            I’m willing to agree that there’s nothing wrong refusing to make a cake based on something about the cake, provided you would refuse the same cake for any customer.

            I’m also uncomfortably aware that there is an edge case that you did not bring up, that of the local neo-nazi group (or a group of people who one thinks look like neo-nazis) ordering a generic “Happy Birthday, Adolf”. Particularly since I don’t think, for a wedding cake, an impersonal text like “Congratulations, ______ and ______” is ‘speechy’ enough for it to matter what names the blanks are filled in with.

            If I were actually presented with that situation, I’d probably just be glad Nazis aren’t a protected class.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @random832:

            Pat and Alex.

            Clearly.

          • smocc says:

            For the record, I was not trying to steelman my own argument. I was trying to establish common ground by admitting that there are possible cases that we agree are not defensible. For example, refusing to sell someone a generic cake or coffee because you suspect they’re gay. I guess I wasn’t clear.

            I’m willing to agree that there’s nothing wrong refusing to make a cake based on something about the cake, provided you would refuse the same cake for any customer.

            Does the fact that a cake was custom-designed to help celebrate a gay wedding/ Hitler’s birthday count as “something about the cake”?

            In any case, I originally jumped in to try and answer your question “So, what exactly is the thing [about baking a cake] they consider gravely immoral?” Can you see how preparing a custom cake might in some cases might feel gravely immoral? There are lots of edge cases and I don’t think it’s easy to come up with good law here, but there is a real moral issue for some people that goes beyond a bunch of bigots not liking them gays in their shop.

          • random832 says:

            Does the fact that a cake was custom-designed to help celebrate a gay wedding/ Hitler’s birthday count as “something about the cake”?

            Can you tell that by looking at it (ignoring for now the two-grooms topper case)? Could the same cake have been baked for some other wedding?

            I think “custom” is a slippery thing – a cake can be unique without being specific to the purpose of a gay wedding.

            What would your opinion be, as a hypothetical, if someone arranged to buy a cake with a “straw buyer”, and then only revealed they were gay towards the end of the process?

            Incidentally, of the google image search results for ‘gay wedding cake’, it seemed like roughly half were either rainbow-themed or tuxedo-themed. Which also suggests to me that wedding cake design isn’t such a creative art after all. A substantial number were simply traditionally decorated cakes with toppers indicating a same-sex couple.

          • smocc says:

            What would your opinion be, as a hypothetical, if someone arranged to buy a cake with a “straw buyer”, and then only revealed they were gay towards the end of the process?

            Is the cake for a gay wedding? I am ambivalent: on the one hand, I would like for people to be able, as much as possible, to refuse to cater to events that they feel are immoral. On the other hand, if the service being provided is neutral enough that a straw-buying technique would work I start to have trouble sympathizing with people who worry that they are endorsing something immoral. (As in, “If you couldn’t tell before, you must not be making much of a statement, so what’s the issue?”)

            To be clear, I feel the same ambivalence in the case of a Neo-Nazi group trying to get supplies for their party. I would like for people to be able to dissociate themselves from events that they feel are immoral, but it does seem like sometimes we need to suck it up for the sake of a liberal society.

            Again, I’m not claiming to have any answers, except to your original question of “So, what exactly is the thing [about baking a cake] they consider gravely immoral?” If you feel like I have answered that question then I’m done. If not, I’d appreciate it if you let me know.

          • random832 says:

            Again, I’m not claiming to have any answers, except to your original question of “So, what exactly is the thing [about baking a cake] they consider gravely immoral?” If you feel like I have answered that question then I’m done.

            You’ve given me a lot to think about.

            @Eltargrim

            Don’t presume my side in this. I object to your characterizing non-discrimination laws with respect to orientation as “a decision we made collectively, a long time ago.”

            Sorry about that. And I meant that more in terms of discrimination in general (I don’t see people saying that bakers and other wedding-industry business should have a veto on interracial marriage, or sell only to people of a particular religion), and framing things in terms of a supposed general principle that bakers have a fully general right to refuse service is completely ignoring that this is something that went away before anyone even imagined tolerating homosexuality specifically. The whole thing just feels more like a counterfactual set in a libertarian-fantasy universe than the real world.

          • Jiro says:

            What would your opinion be, as a hypothetical, if someone arranged to buy a cake with a “straw buyer”, and then only revealed they were gay towards the end of the process?

            How would you feel if a straw buyer hired you to write a speech praising some person who helped his neighbors when in trouble and gave to charity, but failed to mention that he chose only his white neighbors to help and that the charity was a whites-only scholarship?

            The exact same literal words can be expressing different ideas–can be different speech–depending on things which you have not been told.

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t see people saying that bakers and other wedding-industry business should have a veto on interracial marriage, or sell only to people of a particular religion

            If you don’t see such people you haven’t looked hard enough.

            Of course, this is confounded by the fact that anyone who says such a thing in public would get driven out of business.

    • Jordan D. says:

      Take a little while and taboo “left” and “right” from your thoughts. Sit down and make a list of major societal changes that you think have happened in the last, say, 50 years. Then write down a descriptive sentence about what you think those changes show. Read your sentence, take a moment to think about whether you’ve omitted any data points that support or disprove it, then decide whether it makes sense to call what you’ve got “left”, “right” or just to drop the axis from your chart.

      Whatever you’ve got at the end is probably still wrong, but I can almost guarantee that it will at least be slightly more reasoned and coherent than what most people are telling you.

      • Urstoff says:

        Listen to this man. All of you.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “Take a little while and taboo “left” and “right” from your thoughts.”

        What about “Order” and “Chaos”, then? “Civilization-preserving” and “Civilization-destroying”?

        “Sit down and make a list of major societal changes that you think have happened in the last, say, 50 years. Then write down a descriptive sentence about what you think those changes show.”

        They show us moving consistently and unstoppably into Weber’s “polar night of icy darkness” and irreversible civilizational collapse.

        There does indeed appear to be a consistent trend in the last 50 years, the same one that one sees looking at the last 400 years. Call it “progress”, call it “the arc of history”, call it “Cthulhu swimming left”, there is clearly a trend, and it looks rather axis-like.

        • Jordan D. says:

          Well obviously you don’t get anything out of this if you’ve already decided that the entire world is spinning into a hellish oblivion.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          What about “Order” and “Chaos”, then? “Civilization-preserving” and “Civilization-destroying”?

          Let’s ask this way: Why you did not use the words ‘good’ and ‘evil’? Because it sounds like that’s what you’re trying to say, but for some reason, don’t say.

          They show us moving consistently and unstoppably into Weber’s “polar night of icy darkness” and irreversible civilizational collapse.

          I’m not convinced you did this exercise with a good faith effort. [1] The part where just outline your conclusions (which you have already told, repeatedly, in various other threads) without the intermediate steps seems to suggest so.

          [1] And before someone asks, I did not complete it either. After 5 minute or so I realized a proper way of compiling everything would take an hour, and I don’t have that kind of time.

    • guizzy says:

      A good part of the confusion is that the definition of left and right are muddled with other sides. The obvious one being the “other” axis on the political compass: authoritarianism vs liberalism. To a hardcore Libertarian, increased spending on the military, police or jails is a slide leftwards: towards bigger government and thus towards socialism. To a hardcore Democrat, increased spending on the military, police or jails is a slide rightwards: towards law-and-order, warmongering neoconservatism.

      Now add a new axis that has risen to prominence: from nationalism to globalism, and I don’t blame you for having issues distinguishing your left and right. The obvious solution would be in my opinion to uncouple the other axis and to chose only one to define as left and right: the government size one. Which, in the US, seems to slide towards the left (but, depending on how Trump acts on his promises, might flip to the right now).

  12. dndnrsn says:

    Kevin C., above, mentions The Rise of the Meritocracy by Young. It’s from the 1950s, and seems exactly like the kind of book a lot of people here will find interesting. Who here has read it? What were your thoughts?

    I’ll expand – in a hurry right now – but my brief thoughts:

    a) it’s really interesting to see something you could call “HBD-like” presented without any reference to ethnicity, race, etc. The general thesis is that a quasi-Brave New World system of organizing and sorting people by IQ will lead to the decline of the traditional aristocracy, the rise of a new (and deserving) meritocracy, and the decline of the lower and working classes into political irrelevance, as the intelligent ones are all poached, leaving a lower and lower average IQ manual-labour class less and less able to promote their own interests.

    b) the book is a “mockumentary” – written in the 50s, supposedly in the early-to-mid 21st century, looking back on the “past”. It misses a few things completely, namely:
    c) immigration to the UK and resulting ethnic/racial diversity. It never considers that possibility. Its downtrodden class of proles, their high-IQ children peeled off and incorporated into the ruling class, and that ruling class, are both white.
    d) feminism. The book’s imagined future includes a “labour movement” of sorts, the masses of which are the low-IQ working classes, but the leadership of which is increasingly high-intelligence young women, who do not want to fit into the establishes system, in which they go to university, find a high-IQ man, then retreat home to bear and raise high-IQ children. That educated women would want careers for themselves does not occur to Young.

    e) the book is a work of fiction looking at the future; however, it mirrors in many ways Coming Apart by Murray, which is a work of non-fiction looking at the past and present. Assortive mating and all that.

    f) Young didn’t think any of this is good. The book is a dystopia, written in the voice of a fictional author who thinks it is a utopia.

  13. BBA says:

    Freddie deBoer’s blog has shut down permanently. Like the other times he “permanently” quit blogging it’ll probably last a few months at the longest, but since the server and archives are down there’s no point in keeping him in the blogroll. Or maybe change the link to his Medium account instead?

    • Odovacer says:

      He seems to get a lot of hate directed to him online. Why is that?

      • dndnrsn says:

        From the identity/social justice left, he’s seen as a brocialist concern troll. From the harder class-based left, he’s seen as wishy-washy.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          he is correct, and they can’t handle that

          just look at the Berkeley riots for a quick example : he pointed out that they accomplished nothing. What’s their response?

          He did a lot of great articles noting that no one has a good definition of cultural appropriation – and crucially, a lot of people who believe that it’s a thing, disagree on what it is, but haven’t ever discussed that amongst themselves so they didn’t notice.

      • BBA says:

        He has a prickly personality and his refusal to fall in line behind the Democratic Party pisses off the more “pragmatic” left-wing bloggers. (Scare quotes around “pragmatic” because lately these same people are the most enthusiastic about Nazi-punching.)

        • dndnrsn says:

          Really? The lefty bloggers I would consider most “pragmatic” (if we are counting internet-only stuff on the Atlantic as “blogging”) are the dishwater-boring establishment Democrats who wanted everyone to line up behind Hillary. Most of them seem to be taking the “we need more peaceful pink-hat protests, not Nazi-punching! LOVE TRUMPS HATE!”

          He is basically a leftist example of the same general mold as our host: has definite views, supports a definite side, but is too willing to call out that side on BS, with the result that he isn’t really one of them (after all, what kind of scumbag disagrees with a ref call that helps his team, etc etc), and people who disagree with him think “aha, this guy is really on our side but hasn’t realized it yet”.

          Ultimately, tribalism exists because it serves a purpose, and people who want no part of it generally don’t end up forming their own anti-tribal tribe, for obvious reasons.

          • BBA says:

            I meant more like LG&M. The Atlantic doesn’t really count as a blog in my book.

          • Cypren says:

            Speaking as someone who disagreed with most of de Boer’s priors but enjoyed reading him nonetheless, my view of him has always been that of an “honorable enemy”. He and I will never agree on policies or politics because our fundamental views of human nature are too different. But we can agree on a set of terms and tactics for debate, disagreement and respect, and that’s more than I can reach with a lot of people I oppose.

            Scott is I think more along the lines of someone I can see coming over to “my side” (in the sense of detaching more of his identity from the Blue Tribe and being more and more Gray Tribe). That’s simply a pragmatic assessment based on the fact that he doesn’t seem to share some of what I would classify as de Boer’s religious views, such as “people are not responsible for their own suffering”, and is more amenable to consequentialist arguments.

          • Aapje says:

            @Cypren

            I don’t feel that DeBoer has a very consistent set of rules or beliefs. I see him as a person who gets an idea and thinks it out ruthlessly, not being limited that much by dogma. So he is relativity non-tribal, despite being a SJ person who clearly has a lot of peers who are tribal SJ people. So that trait speaks greatly in his favor. However, the very next moment he seems to get impressed/convinced by a new incompatible idea and take that to an extreme.

            So to me he comes across as a bit bipolar.

            So I would still be quite ware of turning my back on him, as I feel that he is able to honestly deal with me at one moment and then stab me in the back and dance on my corpse, in the next.

      • Iain says:

        The bloggers at Lawyers, Guns, and Money erupt in perennial frustration at his theory of political change / voting. Here are some recent examples.

      • Aapje says:

        @Odovacer

        He seems to get a lot of hate directed to him online. Why is that?

        Recently he chastised the people who use violence for being ineffective, but he also said that it’s not wrong to punch Richard Spencer. That makes him an enemy in the eyes of those who want to punch Nazi’s and an enemy in the eyes of those who don’t believe that violence is an appropriate reaction to speech.

        There are not many people who don’t fit either group.

        And this is just one way in which he make enemies.

        • Deiseach says:

          There are not many people who don’t fit either group.

          I must be one of those; I don’t think “punch your enemies first, never talk first, last or inbetween to them” is a good idea.

          But if you’re going to punch, then punch effectively. Those pathetic sucker-punches where you jump out at someone who isn’t expecting it, hit and then run off – pah! Stand and fight your ground like a man! Hitting and running away before you can be hit in retaliation is the work of a coward and a bully.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            You fit into the second group, because you don’t see violence as a legitimate alternative to talking with people.

  14. bean says:

    We had the start of a discussion on interwar naval diplomacy in the Eichmann thread, and I recently came across more stuff on the issue, so I thought I’d bring it up. Norman Friedman’s British Battleships had a section on the background of the Washington Treaty, and it illuminated several aspects that were mysterious in the previous thread.
    Most notably, Fletcher Pratt’s claims on general disarmament are not entirely wrong. The League of Nations did have a mandate to pursue general disarmament/arms control. It didn’t work, and none of us had ever heard of it. The Naval Treaties were started as a second path by the US to deal with the rising tension in the Pacific, although the British would have called a conference in a few months if the US didn’t, on a slightly different basis.
    Another point that I had missed was that the UK and to a lesser extent the US had already been on a building holiday during the war, which is what allowed the Japanese to catch up. If you look at modern battleships, the Japanese would have been ahead if they’d finished the 8-8 fleet. This turned out to be a serious problem, because in the initial draft of the treaty, it looked like each side would only have one post-Jutland ship (Hood, Maryland, and Nagato). Then the Japanese claimed that Mutsu should be counted as complete, which allowed the US to finish Colorado and West Virginia, and the British to build Nelson and Rodney, maintaining a margin of superiority over the Japanese.
    The building holiday was an original US suggestion which both the US and British naval staffs badly wanted to take out, because it would badly damage their naval industries (particularly the British, who depended on privately-owned yards, not the Navy Yards the US mostly used) and leave them with the block obsolescence problem that continues to plague navies to this day. (This was part of the reason for the Nelsons, too.) The provision was too popular with the US public to remove, however.
    Another thing I did not know was that the US fleet of 1916 was originally authorized to ‘ensure freedom of the seas’, which was code for breaking the British blockade of Germany. The US had important trade relations with both the UK and Germany, and the various factors which brought us into the war on the allied side (Zimmerman Telegram, Lusitania) hadn’t come out yet.

    • cassander says:

      >he League of Nations did have a mandate to pursue general disarmament/arms control. It didn’t work, and none of us had ever heard of it. The Naval Treaties were started as a second path by the US to deal with the rising tension in the Pacific, although the British would have called a conference in a few months if the US didn’t, on a slightly different basis.

      I’m not sure what you mean by didn’t work. the treaty regime lasted 16, and doubtless saved the contracting powers a ton of money. And a slightly different conference might not have worked out that well. Charles Evans Hughes used his opening remarks to steal a march on the conference and achieved radical results that were far in excess of what was generally anticipated going into

      >Another point that I had missed was that the UK and to a lesser extent the US had already been on a building holiday during the war, which is what allowed the Japanese to catch up.

      This is not exactly right. Prior to the war, US production was well behind both the UK and Germany. then in 1916, you get the “second to none” fleet and in 1917 entry to the war which laid down a lot of ships. The UK also built a lot of battleships during the war. For both the US and UK, however, those ships get delayed by the urgent need for destroyers to fight U-boats in late 1917 and 18. By the time of the treaties, production for both was back in full swing.

      >The US had important trade relations with both the UK and Germany, and the various factors which brought us into the war on the allied side (Zimmerman Telegram, Lusitania) hadn’t come out yet.

      yeah, the British blockade of Germany was at least as illegal as submarine warfare. But A, Woodrow Wilson deliberately underplayed this because of his allied sympathies, and B, it didn’t get Americans killed.

      • bean says:

        I’m not sure what you mean by didn’t work.

        The League of Nations general disarmament stuff was such a failure that nobody involved in that thread had heard of it.

        This is not exactly right. Prior to the war, US production was well behind both the UK and Germany. then in 1916, you get the “second to none” fleet and in 1917 entry to the war which laid down a lot of ships.

        Not battleships. The 1916 program included 10 battleships, the Marylands and the South Dakotas, and the 6 Lexington-class battlecruisers. Of those, 1 (Maryland) was completed before the conference, and 2 others ultimately completed. (Lex and Sara were, but they don’t count for obvious reasons.)

        The UK also built a lot of battleships during the war. For both the US and UK, however, those ships get delayed by the urgent need for destroyers to fight U-boats in late 1917 and 18. By the time of the treaties, production for both was back in full swing.

        Only for the US, and only sort of. Colorado and West Virginia were in the 80% complete range. The British did not have a single capital ship under construction at the time of the conference. The US had sort of caught up, but note that Arizona and Pennsylvania commissioned in 1916, while the New Mexicos commissioned Dec 1917, May 1918, and Mar 1919. That’s an average of about a year late, and the delay was even greater for later classes.
        Seriously, what battleships did the British build during the war? All 5 of the Rs were laid down on or before January 1914, under the peacetime program. Typical British building was 4 per year, rising to 5 in the last two years before the war (not counting battlecruisers). Between the start of the war and the Washington conference, the British built 3 battlecruisers (Repulse, Renown, Hood) and Spurious, Curious, and Outrageous (whatever they were). That’s equivalent to maybe a year’s production at their normal rate, between 1915 and 1922. They cancelled Hood’s sisters before the conference, and were planning to lay down the G3s if they conference failed.

        yeah, the British blockade of Germany was at least as illegal as submarine warfare. But A, Woodrow Wilson deliberately underplayed this because of his allied sympathies, and B, it didn’t get Americans killed.

        Not quite. Blockades are a recognized part of warfare. The British did use an unusually strict definition of contraband (which did amount to a total cutting off of direct trade, although some US exports continued through European neutrals), but it was pretty clearly less illegal than unrestricted submarine warfare.

        • cassander says:

          >The League of Nations general disarmament stuff was such a failure that nobody involved in that thread had heard of it.

          I’m not sure you can consider the Washington treaty outside the context of the general post-war push towards disarmament.

          >Not battleships. The 1916 program included 10 battleships, the Marylands and the South Dakotas, and the 6 Lexington-class battlecruisers. Of those, 1 (Maryland) was completed before the conference, and 2 others ultimately completed. (Lex and Sara are a different matter.)

          completed before, sure, but several others were in the process of being built. I’d have to look up the laying down dates, and I don’t have my copy of Friedman at work, but IIRC, many, if not most, of those ships were under construction at the time of the conference.

          >Only for the US, and only sort of. Colorado and West Virginia were in the 80% complete range. The British did not have a single ship under construction at the time of the conference.

          that’s because they’d just canceled the admiral class ships (except for hood) in favor of the follow on class

          >Seriously, what battleships did the British build during the war? All 5 of the Rs were laid down on or before January 1914, under the peacetime program. Typical British building was 4 per year, rising to 5 in the last two years before the war (not counting battlecruisers). During the course of the war, the British built 3 battlecruisers (Repulse, Renown, Hood) and Spurious, Curious, and Outrageous. That’s equivalent to maybe a year’s production of their normal ships. They cancelled Hood’s sisters before the conference.

          Depends what you mean by “built” and “during the war”. If you’re not counting the Pre-war ships then in 1915, 2 renowns, courageous, glorious, and furious. In 1916, you have the 4 admiral class ships. 1917 and 18, work on battleships is paused to build escorts. By the time the immediate post-war period has shaken itself out, the decision is made to cancel the admirals and build the N3s and G3s instead. And if you look closely, you’ll note that the construction schedules for those war time ships was considerably accelerated. Renown is commissioned less than two years from keel laying, pre-war ships take more like 2 and half. Building those ships faster took more time and more workers.

          >Not quite. Blockades are a recognized part of warfare. The British did use an unusually strict definition of contraband (which did amount to a total cutting off of trade), but it was pretty clearly less illegal than unrestricted submarine warfare.

          illegal is a binary term. both sides were conducting illegal blockades.

          • bean says:

            I’m not sure you can consider the Washington treaty outside the context of the general post-war push towards disarmament.

            That point was in regards to Fletcher Pratt’s comments in Sea Power and Today’s War. He was less wrong than I previously thought.

            completed before, sure, but several others were in the process of being built. I’d have to look up the laying down dates, but battleships took years to build.

            I’m well aware of that, and pointed out exactly how much the war delayed the various US battleships.

            that’s because they’d just canceled the admiral class ships (except for hood) in favor of the follow on class

            They were cancelled in February of 1919. The WNT was signed three years later. That’s not too far off from the typical interval between authorization and completion of capital ships at the time.

            Depends what you mean by “built” and “during the war”.

            “Actually completed” and “laid down after August 1914”.

            If you’re not counting the Pre-war ships then in 1915, 2 renowns, courageous, glorious, and furious.

            Two of those were decent battlecruisers, built at least partially to avoid cancellation penalties on contracts already let.

            In 1916, you have the 4 admiral class ships.

            Only one of which was completed.

            1917 and 18, work on battleships is paused to build escorts. By the time the immediate post-war period has shaken itself out, the decision is made to cancel the admirals and build the N3s and G3s instead.

            None of this is a rebuttal of my position that the war greatly hindered British battleship production. Between 1915 and 1921, they laid down and completed three, not counting the ‘large light cruisers’. If they’d stuck to 4 per year (conservative if the war doesn’t happen) they’d have built 24, not the approximately 4 they actually built.

            And if you look closely, you’ll note that the construction schedules for those war time ships was considerably accelerated. Renown is commissioned less than two years from keel laying, pre-war ships take more like 2 and half. Building those ships faster took more time and more workers.

            That was because the British felt they had enough superiority in battleships, but needed more battlecruisers.

            illegal is a binary term. both sides were conducting illegal blockades.

            Really? An unusually strict blockade is the same as totally ignoring prize rules and firing on unarmed, unescorted merchant ships without giving them a chance to surrender?

          • cassander says:

            >I’m well aware of that, and pointed out exactly how much the war delayed the various US battleships.

            It delayed them, but it also created the conditions and funding them for them to be laid down in the first place.

            >They were cancelled in February of 1919. The WNT was signed three years later. That’s not too far off from the typical interval between authorization and completion of capital ships at the time.

            The conference starts at the end of 21. Again, I don’t have my books with me to check, but I think it would have been scheduled for at least a year before that, maybe more. It would be gauche to lay out large expenditures for new ships right before a naval limitation treaty. And not just gauche, but you don’t want to pay for ships you’re about to decide not to build.

            >None of this is a rebuttal of my position that the war greatly hindered British battleship production. Between 1915 and 1921, they laid down and completed three, not counting the ‘large light cruisers’. If they’d stuck to 4 per year (conservative if the war doesn’t happen) they’d have built 24, not the approximately 4 they actually built.

            Furious and Courageous were 22k tons, considerably bigger than the early dreadnoughts, they should be counted. One must also bear in mind the considerable increase in cost. Hood was fully twice the size of dreadnought. the pace is going to have to slow down somewhat if the size of the ships doubles.

            >That was because the British felt they had enough superiority in battleships, but needed more battlecruisers.

            That’s true, but I fail to see significant difference between the two types for the purpose of this discussion. The Washington treated considered them of one kind for a reason.

          • bean says:

            It delayed them, but it also created the conditions and funding them for them to be laid down in the first place.

            Not the ones which actually got commissioned. The normal rate was 2 per year, 1914 being an anomaly due to the sale of 2 pre-dreads to Greece. This only got broken in 1916, with the Marylands and SoDaks. Only 3 of the former were completed, and a lot later than they should have been under normal schedules. Even if the 1916 program had been carried through to completion, we’d have only caught up to where we would normally have been in 1920, putting us behind on our programs by the date of the conference. The British were even more behind, because they were only up through about 1915 on their normal schedule.

            The conference starts at the end of 21. Again, I don’t have my books with me to check, but I think it would have been scheduled for at least a year before that, maybe more. It would be gauche to lay out large expenditures for new ships right before a naval limitation treaty. And not just gauche, but you don’t want to pay for ships you’re about to decide not to build.

            What was scheduled for a year before the conference? Laying down the G3s? Orders were placed in the fall of 1921, but suspended almost immediately because of the conference. Friedman doesn’t mention arms control as a reason for them not being laid down a year earlier. Money and design lag had more to do with it. The British were very concerned with making sure they had all the lessons of the war in hand before they built new ships.

            Furious and Courageous were 22k tons, considerably bigger than the early dreadnoughts, they should be counted. One must also bear in mind the considerable increase in cost. Hood was fully twice the size of dreadnought. the pace is going to have to slow down somewhat if the size of the ships doubles.

            I’m not fully counting them because they weren’t built like battleships. Their armor, for instance, was on light cruiser scale. Their guns weren’t, because of the role they were supposed to play, but they were a weird mix. Probably the best parallel was the Alaskas of WWII. Increasing size does reduce unit count (the Germans were specified in unit count, which is why their ships stayed small for so long), but not by a factor of 6.

            That’s true, but I fail to see significant difference between the two types for the purpose of this discussion. The Washington treated considered them of one kind for a reason.

            That was in response to your using it as a case of quick British shipbuilding during the war. Note that Ramillies took 20 months longer than Revenge to commission, despite being laid down a month earlier. Some ships were built fast because of the war, some were slow. Overall, it hindered the British battlefleet badly.

  15. dndnrsn says:

    (@bean, @cassander, this is the sort of thing they probably know/care about)

    We’ve discussed WWII to death. What of WWI?

    To begin: Haig. Good guy, or bad guy? The popular depiction of Haig is a rather dull butcher. He has his defenders. Some say that going by his diaries he did not appear very concerned for loss of life – but after the war he dedicated much time and effort to ex-servicemen.

    Could he really have done anything differently? The nature of technology in WWI – primarily, the lack of radios and batteries light enough to be carried forward with advancing troops – meant that offensive action would inevitably be quite costly.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      The British army in WW1 was the only major army to go the whole war without suffering some sort of major collapse. This would be quite surprising if Haig really was an incompetent butcher.

    • bean says:

      Good guy, couldn’t have done much better. Blackadder is good comedy, but terrible history. He was a little weird, but overall, there just wasn’t much he could do.
      There were a couple of things which lead to the war being the way it was. One was the fact that they had truly incredible force-space ratio. Note that the Eastern Front was a lot more dynamic. When you can have no flanks at all, frontal attack is the only option. Second, technology. Machine guns were heavy and mostly defensive, but very effective. Radios couldn’t be moved forward to allow any sort of flexibility in the attack. Also, lack of any sort of mobile anti-emplacement weapon. Modern rocket launchers would have been a big help. Tanks, obviously, helped even more.
      The other issue was that the middle of the war was fought by pretty bad troops. The British at the end had basically managed to re-create their 1914 Army (which was superb) on a mass scale, and that won the war. Combined with Americans who were too stupid to realize that what they were doing was suicidal, that is. The Germans created the Stosstroppen by stripping the remaining pre-war soldiers, which worked until they got killed.
      John Keegan’s The First World War is very good, although there are better books on Haig. I don’t know them offhand, but can find refs if you want. The above is a bit of my own reading, and a lot of stuff coming from people I trust who have done a lot of reading.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Keegan’s book is good (although I flinch when he defends British WWI generals on the grounds that more died than in WWII – fewer British soldiers died in WWII, after all, so it’s not a direct comparison).

        I would be interested in stuff about troop quality. I’m much better informed about WWII than WWI.

        • bean says:

          The books I’ve seen recommended on that are Sheffield’s Forgotten Victory and Mud, Blood, and Poppycock.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I’ll add, I think Haig, and the British high command in general, get unfairly criticised because this plays into pre-existing cultural biases. Popular (English-language) media nowadays tends to portray hereditary aristocrats as snobbish, callous, out-of-touch, incompetent, hiding dark secrets behind a veneer of propriety, and generally degenerate. (At least in modern-ish settings; medieval noblemen tend to be shown as quite competent.) Since in Britain a lot of the upper classes went into the military, portraying British officers as incompetent butchers fits in with the stereotype of stupid aristocrats, and hence accusations of this sort are likely to stick, even though the things Haig et al. get accused of (wasting lives in futile attacks on enemy positions, that sort of thing) would apply equally to their French, American and German counterparts.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Haig’s family was wealthy, but he wasn’t of the aristocracy – all his titles and such were conferred later.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Yeah I know, but I don’t think most people do, due to something like outgroup homogeneity bias (not that the titled gentry is really the outgroup for most people nowadays, but you know what I mean).

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        even though the things Haig et al. get accused of (wasting lives in futile attacks on enemy positions, that sort of thing) would apply equally to their French, American and German counterparts.

        But is Haig accused of being more of a butcher than the military leaders of other countries? It’s one thing to argue that Haig was far more incompetent than the others, or that they all were equally incompetent. [1]

        Ones view on this is also obviously going to be colored by consuming, say, only English-language media. For example, my main international language is English, not French, so I’ve watched Blackadder and such, not the French equivalent whatever it would be. Thus I’m far more familiar with Haig’s presence in the anglophone(?) popular consciousness as an incompetent than say, marshal Joffre. (I even did have to check the name’s spelling from Wikipedia.)

        Only ‘popular media’ kind of work on WW1 from French viewpoint I’ve seen / read is Tardi’s “It Was the War of the Trenches”, and Tardi certainly did not seem to consider Joffre in very high regard (on the contrary). But Tardi’s treatment of the WW1 was quite anti-war in general, so that’s not enough to judge if the French commanders are thought to be more or less incompetent than Haig, in general.

        [1] Maybe not equally, though: only thing I’m fairly sure of is that the Italian high command is generally regarded as “totally clueless” by everybody?

        edit. And I almost forgot. I meant to actually ask if there’s someone familiar with the French, German, etc narrative and would like chime in?

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’m a bit more familiar with French and German than most – you are right that the popular imagination in English-speaking countries is very Anglocentric.

          The French commanders don’t have a great reputation. Joffre is seen as a blunderer, Nivelle as a self-promoter who had one success and then a massive failure that led to mass mutiny, Petain had a good reputation but that was spoiled by his actions as a collaborator in WWII.

          The reputation of the German generals was complicated a great deal by the German postwar political situation.

          Italian and Russian generals are generally agreed to have been fairly mediocre.

        • bean says:

          But is Haig accused of being more of a butcher than the military leaders of other countries?

          There were other countries in the war? I know the British fought, and the Americans, and I guess the war couldn’t have happened in France without them being part of it. But the French are militarily incompetent, so they probably didn’t fight. I think I remember hearing that the Russians were involved, but they were probably too busy being idiots to actually do anything. Austria-Hungary sounds like a made-up place. Wait? Italy fought, too? (Sarcasm off)
          The narrative that has Haig as chief butcher doesn’t rise to the level of sophistication needed to answer that question.

          It’s one thing to argue that Haig was far more incompetent than the others, or that they all were equally incompetent. [1]

          The fact that the British Army alone never collapsed (the Americans don’t count) is impressive, and reflects well on Haig. Every country had good and bad leaders, except, as noted, Italy. Who just had bad ones.
          Unfortunately, I only speak English and cannot speak to the popular perception in other countries. The only one I’ll venture a guess on is Germany, where I know Hindenburg was revered until his death. I’m not sure what they think of him now, though. It’s almost certainly heavily colored by his actions as President post-war.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The views of Hindenburg and Ludendorff have been coloured heavily by their actions between the wars.

            Tangentially related: as Keegan points out, the Germans have displaced a lot of the mourning for the dead from WWII to the dead from WWI, for political reasons.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          But is Haig accused of being more of a butcher than the military leaders of other countries?

          Oddly enough, the impression I get in Britain is that the German generals are actually held in higher regard than the British — at any rate, I’ve never heard any accusations of incompetence or butchery directed at them. Some form of cultural cringe, perhaps?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Possible reason: the Germans were on a defensive footing for most of the war in the West. It’s harder to get blamed for throwing your men in wave against wave at enemy strongpoints when you’re on the defensive.

            It also appears (based on analysis by Ferguson, who is hardly pro-German) that the Germans, in WWI as in WWII, had superior tactical leadership, and so came out looking better in that regard.

    • cassander says:

      the bigger issue with ww1 was transport. Remember, battles are won by making the enemy run away or give up, not by killing him, and the traditional ways of doing this are to break through his lines or maneuver around his flanks. The WW1 combination of huge armies and rail transport made it impossible to do this. Armies could move 10 times as fast on rail as they could by foot. That meant that, once force ratios got high, it became impossible for the attackers to advance any meaningful distance because in the same amount of time it took the them and their horses to bring up their guns, the defender could use his rail network to bring in fresh armies from somewhere else to throw them back. the armies were just too big to make run away or give up, so the result was stalemate.

      what eventually broke the stalemate (in the broader tactical sense) wasn’t tanks or radios, but trucks. Trucks made made it possible to move men and supplies fast enough on the offensive to encircle modern armies before they could be re-enforced by rail. trucks that were sufficiently reliable, powerful, and cross terrain capable enough to replace horses and wagons didn’t really exist in 1913 (and didn’t exist in sufficient numbers. there were only 300,000 cars of all sorts in france and the UK in 1913, ford would make that many model Ts in 1915). They would exist by 1920 or 25. It’s remarkable to think how differently ww1 would have gone if it had happened even 5-10 years earlier or later.

      • Rock Lobster says:

        I just finished Adam Tooze’s The Wages of Destruction. He discusses how in WW2 on the eastern front, the effective range of the Wehrmacht’s initial thrust into the SU was confined to the practical range of trucks, which would have been about 500 km.

        I hadn’t really considered that before, but it makes sense in light of the well-known rail problems the Germans had in Russia. Also I imagine trucks were less susceptible to sabotage.

    • James Miller says:

      WWI scares me a lot more than WWII does. Obviously, if evil war-loving men run nations you get genocidal war. But WWI shows that even basically decent people, with common values and worldviews, can be put into a situation in which they knowingly enter a war that they know could turn out very badly for themselves and the people they care about.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        To be fair, most if not all of the participants were surprised by how drawn-out and bloody it had been. We like to mock “Over by Christmas”, but this was a real sentiment at the time, and indeed pretty much every war between great powers since Crimea had been decided within a month or two of the outbreak.

        • James Miller says:

          Once the British entered the war I don’t think the Germans thought that they could win in a short war. The best the Germans could hope for was to quickly beat France, and then fight a long war against Russia and a British blockade with the war only ending when the German economy collapsed or Russia and England got tired of the war.

          • bean says:

            Don’t ascribe too much thought to the Germans on such matters. They just didn’t have it. In a tiny bit of fairness, they expected the British to try for a close blockade, which might have given them a chance of winning.
            And if the French and Russians are both thoroughly beaten, it was hard at the time to see how and why the British could keep the war going on their own.
            Remember, the early parts of WWI were not marked by the ideological hatred that characterized WWII. They could probably have gotten a reasonable peace out of the British if they’d won on land in 1915.
            Another thing to remember is that strategic bombing wasn’t possible then. The British would have been hard-pressed to hit back. For that matter, beating France gives the Germans the French Atlantic ports, which makes the U-boats much more effective. They came pretty close to winning the shipping war in WWI without that, so starving the British out isn’t impossible.
            I’m not sure the Germans could have won after the British entered the war, but that wasn’t necessarily obvious to them at the time.

      • cassander says:

        it’s a wonderful (by which I mean terrifying) example of how something can happen that no one wanted as a result of individual incentives. sort of like how we just had an election (i.e. popularity contest) between the two least popular people in the country.

        @The original Mr. X

        A good point. And had the war happened 5 years earlier, it probably would have been over by Christmas, or nearly so. Without the haber process, Germany simply would have run out of ammunition sometime in 1915.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Didn’t the German generals actually want war?

          • bean says:

            They did. They engineered it so the Kaiser (who they saw as dangerously peace-minded) would be overseas at a critical moment.

          • James Miller says:

            Some German generals thought they were going to eventually fight a war against France and Russia and it would be better to fight it now than in the future because the Russian economy was rapidly growing and the Austro-Hungarian Empire would help them now but perhaps would not be a future ally in part because the Empire seemed on the verge of collapse.

          • bean says:

            Some German generals thought they were going to eventually fight a war against France and Russia and it would be better to fight it now than in the future because the Russian economy was rapidly growing and the Austro-Hungarian Empire would help them now but perhaps would not be a future ally in part because the Empire seemed on the verge of collapse.

            Not exactly. They wanted a “short victorious war” to solidify the conservative position in domestic politics.

          • cassander says:

            It’s a mistake to assume all the generals wanted the same thing. Some wanted this (though it was the Austrian supreme general who probably wanted it most), but by no means all.

    • James Miller says:

      The When Diplomacy Fails Podcast has an excellent day by day analysis of the July crisis that resulted in WWI.

    • Kevin C. says:

      @dndnrsn

      “We’ve discussed WWII to death. What of WWI?”

      An unambiguous disaster for Western civilization. It wrecked the most advanced nation in Europe (Germany). It killed the Bismarkian alternative to expanding the franchise to counter “1848”-type agitation. It gave us the Russian Revolutions, and thus the USSR. It allowed Woodrow Wilson to act to “make the world safe for democracy”, which actually meant destroying the last remnants of the authentic, aristocratic European Right, thereby leaving Fascism, Nazism, Falangism, etc. the only right-ish alternatives to either Anglo-American liberalism or Marxism-Leninism. It gave us a century of Middle East violence.

      And the Lusitania was very much a valid target, wherein the British were using innocent passengers as unwitting human shields in an egregious war crime; in most modern cases, civilians at least know when they’re being used as human shields.

  16. Alex Zavoluk says:

    Something I just thought of today. During and after the election cycle I saw quite a lot of interest on behalf of the broad left/center and even anti-Trump right in the following 2 endeavors:

    1. Understanding why people were voting for Trump

    2. Persuading Trump supporters, with conversation, not to vote for Trump.

    Certainly there were less honest or peaceful reactions, but I never noticed many conservatives desperate to understand why liberals supported Obama or, say, Sanders, or persuade them to vote otherwise.

    Am I misunderstanding something, or do I owe quite a lot of people more benefit of the doubt with respect to their intellectual honesty than I’ve been giving them?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      It was an attempt to get around “No one I know voted for Nixon.”

      I only personally knew two Trump voters, and both of them were pretty poorly informed. I’m sure someone in a deeper bubble than me would be completely shocked that anyone would vote for him and honestly wanted to know why.

      Whereas the Obama presidency was pretty self-explanatory, at least to the conservatives.

      • Corey says:

        I had some confusion about a fellow autism parent (the IQ-50 kind of autism, not the Rain Man kind) who was a Trumpkin. My initial model was just that she hated Obamacare so much (as a Papa John’s franchisee, she has good reasons to) that she would throw our kids under the bus by electing people who want to get rid of the Department of Education (therefore no IDEA therefore take us back to 70s special ed).

        After engaging with her (uncharitably, post-election, during a freakout I was having on this exact issue) I eventually came to understand that it was Pure Conservative Principle instead; she thinks Feds are incompetent/evil and State-funded special ed would be just fine. As we’re NC residents I kind of question that, but whatever.

      • Corey says:

        In this very forum I learned about another reason, asking a religious conservative why they were supporting the cartoonishly-nonreligious Trump in droves. It was something something gay wedding cakes IIRC.

    • Randy M says:

      I think that liberals/Democrats pretty much had a very hard time articulating any non-deplorable rationale for voting Republican. I think most Republican/conservative voters could give several understandable reasons why someone would vote Democrat, many of which they could argue against (correctly or not) on the basis of “but the long term effects of that policy would create bigger problems.”

      Maybe Republicans don’t actually model Democrats any better than the reverse, but they were able to tell themselves plausible stories that didn’t end up with “half the country is wicked.” (Many exceptions to any generality will exists, yadda yadda)

      As to why there was less focus on persuasion, I think it was either general pessimism about their odds, or not wanting to identify as a Trump supporter (not mostly out of fear of safety, but losing friends), or not thinking the outcome of a Democratic victory was going to be as catastrophic as their rivals felt a Trump victory to be.

      • Chalid says:

        Really? Don’t you think “Democrats are lazy bums who are voting to tax hard-working folks in order to pay for benefits for themselves” is an extremely common caricature?

        • cassander says:

          for certain groups of democrats, but not, say, left wing senators.

        • Randy M says:

          I do, but I think that that caricature doesn’t rise to the level of incomprehensible evil. There [live off welfare] but for the grace of God and the realization that that isn’t sustainable go I, certainly.

          I’m not saying it is a fair view to hold (though there were plenty who hoped for free insurance from Obama) but it isn’t one that makes the other so hard to understand.

          It’s that the source of these “Let’s understand the other” are left-leaning click-baity on-line news sites, of which there are more Democrat sources.

          • Chalid says:

            What views rise to the level of incomprehensible evil? I’d see something like the “racist white men vote to maintain their privileges” views of Republicans as about equivalent to the “lazy welfare bums” view of Democrats (both voting themselves things they didn’t earn and don’t deserve) and I can’t think of a common view that’s much more hostile than that.

          • Randy M says:

            Shrug. I wasn’t speaking for myself, I was guessing why someone on the left might not be able to understand a Trump voter.

            Do you really think the left sees a racist as no worse than the right sees a lazy bum? This is not the impression I have. Could be wrong.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @RandyM:
            There is a circularity there which is clear if you take half a second.

            Blacks vote 90%+ for Democrats. Republicans think the people who vote Democrat are all lazy bums. Republicans think 90%+ of Blacks are lazy bums.

            In other words the idea that people only vote for Democrats because they are lazy bums pretty much sounds like a near blanket condemnation of blacks.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Less than 40% of white Republicans think that black people are more lazy than hard-working, a couple of percent more than white Democrats. A bigger gap exists when asked the question whether they think black people lack the motivation to pull themselves out of poverty, but even there it’s 57% vs 41%, far shy of your blanket statement that all Republicans believe that “90%+ of Blacks are lazy bums”.

            Source:

            https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/are-white-republicans-more-racist-than-white-democrats/

            PS. IMHO there is a tendency to ascribe a general dislike of governmental wealth transfers to racist beliefs, based on anecdotal evidence. This is a narrative fallacy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            I was talking about a circularity of one side modeling the other.

            If a Republican says “People vote Democrat because they are lazy and want free stuff” that leads the Democrat to model the Republican voter as racist.

            Neither is a particularly accurate model.

          • Matt M says:

            The accuracy of the model is not particularly relevant to the larger question at hand. Democrats genuinely believe their model, which suggests Democratic policies would be a clear improvement for a huge majority of the population. Republicans genuinely believe their model, which concedes that Republican policies would probably make life more difficult (at least in the short term) for nearly half the country, but these people are probably lazy bums who need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, etc.

            This explains why Democrats must seek to “explain” people voting Republican, but Republicans have no great difficulty “understanding why” people vote Democrat. Whether either side is actually correct or not doesn’t really matter.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            Republicans genuinely believe their model

            Do you actually think that Republicans genuinely believe that 90% of black people are lazy bums who want free stuff?

            And I am not trying to play gotcha games here. I think that people “genuinely” believe their model only sometimes, and other times they don’t. Because people are irrational much of the time and assholes some of the time. Which makes them irrational assholes far too much of the time.

          • Randy M says:

            I was talking about a circularity of one side modeling the other.

            If a Republican says “People vote Democrat because they are lazy and want free stuff” that leads the Democrat to model the Republican voter as racist.

            Neither is a particularly accurate model.

            I didn’t say it was an accurate model, and I certainly didn’t say it was the only model; I just said it was a model that doesn’t lead to lots of articles wondering how anyone could possibly vote Democrat.

            Democrats being the party that gives out more stuff is not exactly a novel stereotype.

            Going to quote myself making the same point above:

            I think most Republican/conservative voters could give several understandable reasons why someone would vote Democrat, many of which they [the conservative] could argue against (correctly or not) on the basis of “but the long term effects of that policy would create bigger problems.”

          • Matt M says:

            Do you actually think that Republicans genuinely believe that 90% of black people are lazy bums who want free stuff?

            I think this is a bit unfair circular reasoning. They believe Democrat voters are lazy bums who want free stuff. If that happens to include 90% of blacks then fine, but they’d happily change their mind on that if blacks started voting Republican.

            That said, I will admit that, to the extent that “these people vote for the other side but they’d be much better off voting for us” logic applies to Republicans, the issue of minority voting is almost certainly the area where it is most likely to manifest itself.

            See: Trump’s comments about what a disaster the inner cities are, with the implicit (and occasionally explicit) follow-on of something like “and they’ve been ruled solely by Democrats for the last 100 years”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Randy M:
            See here is the rub.

            If the right actually believes that 90% of blacks are lazy bums who just want free stuff, then the left’s explanation for why the Republicans vote as they do (It’s the racism, duh!) actually also does hold explanatory power.

            @Matt M:

            but they’d happily change their mind on that if blacks started voting Republican.

            While I have no doubt that this is true, it doesn’t say very much of anything. It’s expected that we will profess the virtue of those in our ingroup.

            As Mitt Romney neatly summarized, the articulated belief is that the “free stuff” people will never vote Republican, because they are congenitally inclined to want free stuff. So the articulated belief is one about intrinsic nature.

          • Matt M says:

            HBC,

            Don’t blacks also commit murder at a higher rate than whites?

            Is it racist to hate murderers?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            Oh good lord, that’s some pretzel logic right there.

            It’s not racist to hate murderers (although, perhaps, it is usually pointless, if completely understandable, to hate them). It is racist to believe that 90% of blacks are murderers.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @HBC
            You don’t seem to be applying the causality in a consistent order. Is it racist to believe that 90% of blacks vote Democrat?

          • Randy M says:

            If the right actually believes that 90% of blacks are lazy bums who just want free stuff, then the left’s explanation for why the Republicans vote as they do (It’s the racism, duh!) actually also does hold explanatory power.

            I don’t quite get your issue. The question was, “Why were so many people asking how anyone could support Trump/Republicans?”

            My answer was that maybe Republicans, rightly or wrongly, already have a few reasonable reasons why they believe people could support Democrats, and the Democrats only explanation for Trump didn’t explain his success, so they were more confused.

            I said that the reasons Republicans would give would *not* lead them to conclude that half the country (ie, democratic voters) were wicked.

            Somehow this gets contorted into Republicans are racist.

            lolwut?

            Maybe Republicans think 10% of democratic voters want more government assistance and the rest want to see them get it?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Gobbobobble:
            No, the racist part would be where one would use that fairly objective fact to conclude that 90% of blacks are lazy bums.

            @Randy M:
            Note that I said the models were wrong. Please don’t do that thing where you accuse me of saying all Republicans are racist. I will find that very irritating.

            And frankly, the idea that Democrats couldn’t possibly find find the racism angle explanatory just seems way off base. Especially not with the campaign Trump ran.

          • Randy M says:

            Note that I said the models were wrong. Please don’t do that thing where you accuse me of saying all Republicans are racist. I will find that very irritating.

            Right, I shouldn’t say that you said the thing that you say what I said implies. I wouldn’t say that, but I say you only say that what I said implies the thing you don’t want me to say you said because you seem to be deliberately misreading what I say–each time! Sheesh.

            And frankly, the idea that Democrats couldn’t possibly find find the racism angle explanatory just seems way off base.

            Well even Hillary Clinton only thought some of the deplorables were irredeemable.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Okay, then I think you’ll need to show that the 90% of blacks being democrats is somehow *causing* the belief that democrats are lazy bums. Otherwise you’re just demonstrating why accusations of racism are increasingly meaningless these days.

            You can’t just pair an ideology-based generalization (“people who vote for free stuff must be reliant on free stuff (i.e. are lazy bums)”) with an objective fact about a *subgroup within the group being generalized* (90% of blacks vote for the Free Stuff Party) and assert that bigotry about the subgroup is driving the original generalization. The boulder is not rolling uphill.

            More succinctly, please stop equivocating between “90% of blacks are democrats” and “90% of democrats are black”. The latter could be used to prove racial bias in anti-democrat statements, the former does not.

          • Cypren says:

            @HeelBearCub: Remember that the Right, in general, completely disagrees with the idea of disparate impact theory. If you set an objectively neutral rule based on a principle (even one as bad as, “most people vote Democrat because they are lazy and want free stuff”) and that principle happens to get 100% of a minority group, that may prove racial animus for someone on the Left, but it probably won’t for someone on the Right. They’ll just ask, “well, does it fit?”

            The idea that any objective rule applied to a populace must result in exactly equal representative divisions of racial groups or it is an obviously racist and not objective rule is a completely foreign concept to the Right (and, I would argue, to mathematics and reality, but that’s neither here nor there). So yes, I will grant that your explanation explains why someone on the Left will see the Right as racist, but I don’t think that’s an argument in favor of that view being correct.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          That’s a perfectly reasonable theory-of-mind for Republicans to adopt about Democrats. I’m not saying it’s true; I’m saying it’s reasonable for Republicans to think it.

          Meanwhile, several of my liberal friends could only remark about Trump: “the KKK endorsed him. How could anyone vote for him?” They were a few levels up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where voting is an expression of self-identity rather than something you do because you are suffering and hope someone hears you.

        • Nornagest says:

          While that’s a caricature, the reasoning in that caricature is substantially rational: I want free stuff, so I’ll vote for it. The worst you can say about it is that it ignores externalities, which is about on the level of the left-wing trope of short-sighted businessmen voting Republican to enable exploitation of populations or natural resources.

          There are right-wing caricatures that consist of pure irrational fear or malice, though. It’s just that most of them don’t target the Left as such, but rather groups they see the Left as abetting: “thugs” or “predators” for a certain strain of law-and-order conservative, for example.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            While that’s a caricature, the reasoning in that caricature is substantially rational: I want free stuff, so I’ll vote for it

            It’s not even inherently a disagreement on terminal values either. Many people who oppose wealth transfers like free stuff as well. They just worry that they have to pay to provide the free stuff for others, so they oppose it because they think that they get a bad deal.

            Imagine sitting on one side of a negotiating table for a basic ‘conflicts of interests’ negotiation. You have your interests, which causes you to oppose the other side, but if you were in their situation, you’d probably adopt their position.

            This is very different from a conflict where one believes that even if you were in the situation of the other person, it would be irrational/wrong/evil to adopt their position.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          Fairly common; but not, I think, the most common. That would be the “limousine liberal”: a member of the Gentry who’s in practically no danger of ever going on welfare himself, but likes to congratulate himself on his generosity with other people’s money. Even in the most cartoonishly uncharitable form of this caricature, what the liberal is after for himself isn’t free stuff; it’s cheap grace.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      What’s to understand? Lots of people are left-liberals; Obama’s a left-liberal, so they support him. A somewhat smaller number of people are social democrats; Sanders is a social democrat, so they support him. I can solve the riddle of their motivation without having to don a pith helmet and seek them out in their native villages.

    • James Miller says:

      Republicans were obsessed with why most Hispanics voted Democratic and the party elites decided that the reason was because the Republicans were perceived as being anti-immigration and so the party’s best chance of winning was to nominate Jeb a man with a Mexican wife who called illegal immigration “an act of love.”

    • suntzuanime says:

      I think it has something to do with how deviant Trump was. They didn’t react the same way to Romney, McCain, or Bush voters either. That’s because there was nothing to figure out: the Republican voters are Republican and so they’re going to vote for Republican candidates, that’s just what they do. The phenomenon of Republicanism is well-understood, and if we knew how to cure it we already would have. The difference here is that Trump was far from a Republican’s Republican, the Republican establishment hated him. And yet people were voting for him anyway. So it was worth trying to understand why they would do that and seeing if we could fix it.

      I think you might have seen a similar phenomenon on the right if Sanders had been nominated, given the Democratic establishment didn’t much care for him either. Then again, they might have just rounded him off to a Communist and explained him that way. We’ll never know, thanks Debbie.

      • Spookykou says:

        I thought the ‘what’s wrong with Kansas’ idea had been running around for a while pre-Trump?

        • Aapje says:

          Certainly the ‘these people vote against their self-interest’ meme, which IMO is a just a more ‘light’ version of what we have now.

        • dndnrsn says:

          It definitely has. If anything, Trump is pulling the “say you’ll give them x, actually do y” where x is prayer in schools, getting rid of Roe vs Wade, stopping illegal immigration, etc, and y is corporate welfare, deregulation, etc, less than the Republican norm. There will still be corporate welfare and deregulation, but Trump is more likely to do something about illegal immigration than the normal Republican, at least.

    • Matt M says:

      My half baked theory on this is that Democrats view their policies as obviously better for the vast majority of the population and only harmful to the wicked “billionaires and trillionaires.” The literal 1%. Poor people voting Republican is therefore a strange phenomenon that must be “explained” because such people are clearly acting against their own obvious self interest.

      Republicans, meanwhile, think that about half the country are lazy bums who would happily mooch off the more productive given any opportunity to do so. See: Mitt Romney’s supposedly villainous 47% claim. The existence of Democrats: rich, poor, or otherwise, makes perfect sense – as lazy moochers can be found at all income levels. There is nothing to be explained here – nothing to understand. Just a bunch of immoral layabouts who must be resisted at every turn.

      • bean says:

        The other model, the one for lots of the middle/upper class Democrats is that they’re decent people who like Democrat policies because they sound good, not realizing that they don’t work.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Tangential: the “1%” framing is, while rhetorically understandable, a very misleading concept. The 100th percentile begins a tad under $310k per year. Now, that is a lot of money for one person to make. However, to a CEO who makes ten million, or tens of millions, a year in cash and stock options and so forth, a highly-paid corporate lawyer pulling down $310k a year is a peasant. Why, they probably don’t even own a plane!

      • HeelBearCub says:

        See: Mitt Romney’s supposedly villainous 47% claim.

        It was fucking idiotic is what it was.

        The lion’s share of the votes from that 47% go to Republicans.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          do you have a source for that

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Who doesn’t pay income taxes?

            People who don’t make enough money to pay income tax.

            Who doesn’t make enough money to pay income tax:
            – People who are poorly compensated
            – People who are unemployed/nonemployed
            – People who are living off of social security without much other income

            White people without a college degrees dominate all 3 of those categories.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            that’s fascinating

            but every single actual statistic that I have heard suggests that Democrats win low-income voters

            “In 2008, when voter turnout rates were at or around record highs, fewer than half (44.9 percent) of adults in households making less than $30,000 per year voted, according to Census Bureau data. And of those who did vote, a substantial chunk voted for John McCain, the Republican candidate: 25 percent of those making under $15,000, and 37 percent of those making $15,000 to $30,000.”

            https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/how-do-the-47-vote/

            Interestingly, said article notes that the elderly are technically part of this 47% and they vote Republican. But I don’t think that’s what anyone is talking about, because generally the elderly are assumed to have contributed at some point – indeed, Social Security is marketed as the government just holding your money and returning it to you later on.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            the median white with no college degree makes ~40k a year. More if you included people above 54. at least 75% of whites with no college under 65 don’t match any of your criteria.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonEEmous/@cassander:
            Alright, lion’s share is an overstatement. I knew I should have been more careful when I stated it and I retract that.

            But the idea that the Democrats start at 47% because everyone who pays no income tax votes for the Democrat is, I maintain, idiotic.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            sure thinga

            maybe it’s better to say that Mitt Romney is an idiot and has no idea how to properly delineate categories. though to be fair, he was probably trying to suck up to wealthy donors, which is of course a devastating point all on its own.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            You have to keep in mind that people don’t necessarily identify with a label even if it is objectively correct. I think that the 47% statement matched a ‘felt truth’ for many right-leaning people, even if it technically applies to themselves. People can be pretty good at: ‘he means all those other people, but obviously not me, I’m different.’

            IMHO, Romney’s big mistake (as a presidential candidate, not as a person) was that he waffled when that statement got criticism, ceding the narrative to his opponents. If he’d pull a Trump, double down on blaming ‘moochers’ and putting some scorn on the ‘left-wing mainstream media,’ he’d have won favor with many who see themselves as ‘hard-working Americans’.

            PS. Note that the left-leaning have their own ‘felt truths’

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Quick point from the perspective of one of those people who still doesn’t make enough money to pay federal income tax (that is, I get a refund), and works with lots of people who make what he does or less- Anti-taxation sentiment among working classes is generally blind to the specific taxes withheld. That goes for -all- ethnicities. All they’re looking at is:

            $Gross_Pay
            lots
            of
            deductions
            nobody
            reads
            or
            understands
            $Net_Pay

            They’re taking the bottom number, comparing it to the top, and saying “Man, my taxes fucking SUCK!” based on that. Now, on the other hand, the counter is “Ehhh, it’s sort of nice to get that refund check once a year, it’s like a present”!

            Which is a whole other level of wrong, but either way don’t overestimate the amount of thought going into these positions. Some young people MIGHT be aware of social security withholding as separate from income tax, in the sense of “Psh, yeah, like I’ll ever see a dime of THAT!”, but that’s as far as it goes. They’re not even thinking about the various other categories of deductions.

            It’s all just “taxes”, and as a result even if they pay no income tax, they’ll respond positively to tax-cut rhetoric.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko:
            Getting a refund doesn’t mean you pay no tax. It just means your withholding was bigger than your tax bill. Did you get the EITC (earned income tax credit)? Was your total income tax (not tax due) zero?

            But your point about net pay is valid and it’s worse than that, because net pay is also less payment for state taxes, health insurance, retirement contributions, etc.

            I had someone, a fairly competent programmer in his 40s, once insist that his federal income tax rate was 50%.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Hah! Excellent point. It seems I have an ocular beam problem. This is what happens when you do all your filing via software and you stop looking at the paper tax bracket chart for a physical 1040. A quick check of my records reveals I paid about $3,100 in federal tax after the standard deduction.

          • Civilis says:

            One of the reasons the 47% may have matched a ‘felt truth’ is that many on the right lump those that get more from the government than they put in as ‘moochers’ or ‘freeloaders’, even if they pay income tax. Obviously, this isn’t as simple to express as ‘pays no Income Tax’, but it could be how many on the right understood Romney’s comment.

            Oddly, I find the left wing view of society, expressed as ‘You didn’t build that’, fits better with my personal right wing philosophy. I think whatever the actual rhetoric comes out as, that the right does not believe, say, a soldier in the Army counts as a moocher despite being paid more than he pays in taxes. However, it is trivially reasonable that someone on the right could believe that, as an example, a New York City Public School teacher paid to sit all day in a rubber room does not provide any benefit to society to outweigh the amount paid by the public in salary even if they pay taxes on it.

          • Cypren says:

            @HeelBearCub: 50% definitely wasn’t his federal income tax rate, but his total tax burden could have easily been that or more if he was self-employed. When I worked as a freelance consultant some years ago, I was paying out more than 50% of my gross income in taxes between state, local and federal. When you start to realize the government is taking more of your money than they’re leaving you, it starts to matter less which part of the government is doing it and you just start to want to burn all the bastards down.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cypren:
            He was a state employee making well below the level of the max marginal rate.

            And when I asked him how he knew he said he looked at what his salary was and how much he he had deposited in his checking account.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            >But the idea that the Democrats start at 47% because everyone who pays no income tax votes for the Democrat is, I maintain, idiotic.

            Sure, if you’re that literal. But i’ll bet that if you lined up two groups, those that get more in benefits than they pay in taxes, and those that do the reverse, for the under 65 population the former group is going to be vastly more democratic than the latter. The implications for voting of increasing the size of the latter group is obvious.

    • BBA says:

      Speaking only for myself, I was baffled by the Trump phenomenon because all of his proposals were complete nonsense. And sure, most voters will vote based purely on partisan affiliation or a single issue – I’m related to a few people who voted Trump because Avigdor Lieberman wasn’t on the ballot – I thought that complete nonsense would’ve made some of them more hesitant. Well, it turns out David Frum only speaks for David Frum.

      • Jiro says:

        I was baffled by the Trump phenomenon because all of his proposals were complete nonsense.

        I don’t know, I found “cancel TPP” to be pretty easy to understand and not very nonsensical.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, a lot of Trump’s proposals aren’t nonsense AT ALL, compared to what passes for legitimate political policy these days.

          “We need comprehensive immigration reform” is nonsense.

          “Build a wall” is crystal clear.

          • BBA says:

            Here we run into the seriously vs literally discussion. If you seriously want to curtail illegal immigration there are much cheaper, more effective ways to do it than building a wall, but strict I-9 enforcement doesn’t excite the crowd at a rally.

            Trump’s response to the high cost of a wall was “Make Mexico pay for it!” The rally crowds loved that one, but how you do that without getting Mexico to agree (which they’ll never do) or violating the WTO treaties is beyond me.

            And, of course, more than half of illegal immigrants would not be stopped by a wall. Visa overstayers are about 50% of them, and a sizable fraction of the remainder were smuggled in through checkpoints rather than sneaking across the unguarded, unfenced part of the border.

            Maybe there’s some Straussian esoteric sense in which “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” means “crack down on subcontractors who pay illegals under the table” but taken at face value it’s an unworkable, nonsensical policy.

          • Matt M says:

            Trump’s solutions are not necessarily the most likely to actually work, but they have the advantage of being very easy to understand and at least plausible.

            Immigration? Build a wall.

            Losing manufacturing jobs? Bad deals with China – I’ll make better deals.

            Whereas in modern America, the standard political solution to every proposed problem is usually “comprehensive X reform” which, in practical terms, means that a 2,000 page law will be passed which results in higher taxes, higher prices, reductions in freedom, and no significant progress on the problem that was supposed to be solved.

          • BBA says:

            I mean, if you want to optimize policy for “sounds good at a rally” that’s your business, but I’d prefer things that stand up to a few seconds’ thought. Clearly I’m alone here.

            Yes, the Washington machine is broken. Doing incredibly stupid things that won’t work is not going to fix it.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I mean, if you want to optimize policy for “sounds good at a rally” that’s your business, but I’d prefer things that stand up to a few seconds’ thought. Clearly I’m alone here.

            I think the problem is that you and Matt M are interpreting “complete nonsense” differently. Matt seems to think (correct me if I’m wrong, Matt) that being coherent is enough to make a policy not “complete nonsense”, whereas you seem to be arguing that a policy must also stand a reasonable chance of success to count. A policy like building a wall across the southern border, which is coherent and understandable but unlikely to work, wouldn’t be nonsense under his definition, but would be under yours.

          • Matt M says:

            ” Doing incredibly stupid things that won’t work is not going to fix it.”

            Which is precisely why nobody voted for the candidate who campaigned on “more of the same.” We KNOW that “comprehensive immigration reform” means nothing, and is more likely to end up resulting in more illegal immigrants than fewer.

            It’s no shock that people prefer something, anything, no matter how absurdly simple and unable to stand up to serious scrutiny, than that…

          • BBA says:

            Okay, this isn’t going anywhere.

        • BBA says:

          Why cancel TPP? “Because trade deals killed American industry and if you stop making trade deals factory jobs will come back” is a nonsensical reason. “Because Obama negotiated it and he’s a shitty dealmaker” is even worse.

          I was moderately against TPP myself, just because I’m disinclined to support yet another restrictive intellectual property regime, but I didn’t really see anyone making a compelling case for or against it.

      • Cypren says:

        @BBA: Many people thought Obama’s policies were complete nonsense as well that obviously couldn’t work in reality. They were just couched with more intellectual rhetoric to appeal to the coastal professional demographics while being just about as substance-thin.

        Obamacare is a very good example: anyone who ran the actual numbers on it (rather than the deliberately-limited CBO rules) could quickly show that it was going to be a huge gaping hole in the budget and would likely cause the insurance markets to collapse. (And that is, indeed, exactly what has happened. No, I don’t want to hear about how the bill might have worked with “fixes”; it didn’t work as pitched or passed.) But it sounded good in a speech to Obama’s voters, just like “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” sounded to Trump’s voters.

        That the flaws in both plans were immediately obvious to their opponents (in the case of Obamacare, to the point where many people advanced the theory that the program was designed to destroy the insurance markets to create a crisis that would usher in single-payer) just shows that people aren’t voting based on reasoned critical analysis of policy proposals. This isn’t a problem exclusive to either party.

        • Iain says:

          [citation needed]

          The insurance market hasn’t collapsed. Premiums have gone up significantly in some jurisdictions, but not others; this happened before the ACA as well. Enrollment this year is solid, and would likely have been better if the Trump administration hadn’t pulled a bunch of advertisements. There does not appear to be a death spiral.

          Obamacare is not perfect. There are certainly rough edges that could be polished off. But you’re going to have to be a lot more specific about the metrics you are using if you want to declare that it is a self-evident failure. (Remember that your point of comparison is the pre-ACA status quo.)

          • cassander says:

            >The insurance market hasn’t collapsed. Premiums have gone up significantly in some jurisdictions, but not others; this happened before the ACA as well. Enrollment this year is solid, and would likely have been better if the Trump administration hadn’t pulled a bunch of advertisements. There does not appear to be a death spiral.

            The ACA was largely paid for with cuts to medicare advantage. Not only have these cuts not happened, they became increases. That this would happen was utterly obvious to anyone that knew about the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, which saw similar cuts legislated only to be “delayed” every year by congress for nearly 2 decades. The delays were made permanent last year. These “cuts” were going to be responsible for paying for more than half of the ACA. Anyone who pointed out that they were unlikely to happen was called a liar for denying the stone tablets the CBO had sent down from heaven.

            The ACA is not “imperfect”. it is a train wreck, filled with the sort of dishonesty described above. Its architects have openly bragged about pulling one over on people. Any chance the ACA had to be good was torpedoed by the combination of the administration’s desire to do something big with Harry Reid’s unwillingness to split his caucus and the compromises that that required. Without broad support, the bill had to be crafted to pay off as many stakeholders as possible, because anyone that bolted would wreck the whole affair. The results speak for themselves.

          • Cypren says:

            This Megan McArdle article lays out the case fairly well. As she says, we’re not in the late stages of a death spiral where even the most diehard partisans have to concede that the markets have imploded. But it’s pretty clear that absent massive intervention, we’re heading there.

            As she also points out, the Obama Administration has been engaging in massive intervention, under-the-table transfer payments to insurers and political threats just to keep things from collapsing any faster than they already are. All Trump needs to do is stop actively bribing and threatening people and he can stand back and watch it collapse.

            Aside from all of that, my question is pretty simple: if enrollment has flatlined, premiums are going up on average about 20% a year every year since the program launched, and insurers are pulling out and not being replaced, how long exactly do you think the program is going to last? Saying “people can still buy insurance right now in some places as long as they’re massively subsidized” is not evidence of the program working, because the subsidies are capped by statute starting in 2019 and because new insurers are not springing up to service the markets that are being abandoned.

            Yes, some markets in some places are profitable and will continue to be serviced even when the rest of the exchanges go belly-up. But you can’t call Obamacare a success by saying, “hey, a few states can get heavily-subsidized insurance but everyone else lost all their individual market options. Awesome!”

            Edit: After posting this, I noticed McArdle has another post up today with more detail on the 2017 open enrollment period results. It’s not good news for Obamacare proponents.

          • John Schilling says:

            Anyone who pointed out that they were unlikely to happen was called a liar for denying the stone tablets the CBO had sent down from heaven.

            Nit: The CBO doesn’t send down stone tablets from heaven; they are on the receiving end of stone tablets from heaven Congress. If Congress says, “We are going to pass the ACA this year and implement the specified Medicare Advantage cuts over the next five years”, the CBO’s job is to determine the budgetary implications of that scenario. NOT to return to Congress, “You all are lying about the laws you say you are going to pass; here are the budgetary implications of the laws we think you are going to pass instead”. If the ‘C’ on CBO stood for e.g. ‘Cato Institute’, sure, maybe, but so long as it is the Congressional Budget Office they are going to defer to Congress on that sort of thing.

            I’m certain you can find plenty of other organizations willing to offer dire predictions on the consequences of Congressional dishonesty.

          • Iain says:

            @cassander:

            Okay. Let’s accept for the sake of argument that Obama is a nasty, nasty liar who deliberately pulled the wool over our eyes about how much money would be spent on Medicare Advantage. What a jerk!

            Now: why does it even matter? Because it means more health care spending? Overall spending on health care in America is growing at a slower rate than predicted in 2010.

            Where is the massive failure?

            @Cypren: Aetna is a bad example, given that they were pulling out of profitable markets in an attempt to extort the DOJ into approving their merger with Humana. As I said above, overall health care spending growth is down, so whatever gaping hole in the budget might be involved, it seems better than the previous status quo.

          • Cypren says:

            @Iain: First, I’m going to call you out on moving the goalposts considerably. “But health care costs haven’t increased as much as ACA proponents estimated they would when trying to get the law passed” is a pretty weak argument that the law is working as designed. But more than that, the evidence that the ACA had anything to do with it is pretty weak, and more indicative that the estimates were way off.

            There’s been a global slowdown in health care cost growth starting in 2000, well before the ACA was on the drafting table. There was a further slowdown in US health care cost growth starting in 2008 as a result of the recession.

            The ACA estimates you in the report you linked were based on pre-recession numbers (assuming about 6% annual cost growth), but the period of measurement so far has been during the much lower spending period of the recession and very slow recovery (about 4.4% annual cost growth). This was a perfectly reasonable proposition for making the estimate, given that no one knew how long the recession’s effects would last at the time, but it’s not reasonable to cite it as an authoritative baseline when we now know that the economic dampening effects of the recession and the resulting recovery were worse than believed and lasted much longer. It’s more reasonable to look at healthcare cost growth comparable to wage growth, since it more accurately reflects the cost of a plan in practical terms relative to the rest of the economy. (Spoiler: the rate of increase relative to wages hasn’t slowed, and has in fact increased a bit.)

            The Urban Institute report is a bit circular in some of its reasoning (overall spending is lower because spending growth is lower? Okay, that’s a bit of a tautology…) but you’ll note that the explicit factors that it outlines are things that are either unrelated to the ACA (page 4, “One reason is the Budget Control Act of 2011 (i.e., sequestration), which required Medicare payments for all types of services be reduced…”) or the result of it not being fully implemented (page 5, “This was partly because of the Supreme Court decision in 2012 that made the ACA Medicaid expansion optional for states and significantly reduced enrollment projections…”).

            If I tell you that it’s going to cost $100,000 to remodel your house and you elect only to remodel the garage for $10,000, it probably isn’t reasonable to brag that I came in $90,000 under my projected budget. This is exactly what Obamacare supporters are doing every time they crow about how it’s cheaper than initial CBO projections.

          • cassander says:

            @Iain says:

            >Now: why does it even matter? Because it means more health care spending? Overall spending on health care in America is growing at a slower rate than predicted in 2010.

            the rate of medical spending has been slowing down in the whole OECD.

            >Where is the massive failure?

            150 billion a year to no measurable gain seems like a pretty big failure to me. deficits of tens of billions instead of budget neutrality seems like a failure. Other than that, what Cypren said.

          • BBA says:

            I must plead ignorance and cannot debate this topic (so don’t try to drag me back in!) but I do follow a blogger who’s written in depth on the topic.

            David Anderson aka Richard Mayhew has forgotten more about health insurance than any of us know, and he thinks the death spiral isn’t inevitable yet. He may post on a bomb-throwing ultra-partisan Democratic blog but unlike his cobloggers he’s actually willing to genuinely consider policy proposals from the other side of the aisle. On the other hand, he’s also a bomb-throwing ultra-partisan Democrat so he may be putting a thumb on the scale.

            (Please do not read the comments or anyone else’s blog posts on that site if you know what’s good for you. I do and I wish I didn’t.)

          • Cypren says:

            @BBA: Thanks for the link. Really enjoying reading his analysis!

    • Well... says:

      Perhaps subconsciously, Republicans understand that they are the party of married working white people; still numerous enough to win any national or state-level election if they’d only show up and vote for the Republican who says “I’ll make it easier to be married and working, and I won’t penalize you for being white.”

      When Republicans look at the Democrat’s coalition of single black moms, gay yuppies, college students/recent grads, Spanish-speaking immigrants, and retired couples who own expensive bicycles, it makes perfect intuitive sense why those groups don’t and won’t vote Republican. So they don’t try to convert them.

    • Cypren says:

      I’ll advance the theory that Republicans already think they know why Democrats vote the way they do, and don’t consider it particularly surprising. Part of this is just blanket stereotypes (the infamous “47%” remark being emblematic) but part of it is also that Democrats have an ironclad grip on the major media and pop culture. You can’t be a Republican without being constantly exposed to Democratic beliefs and values and seeing how Democrats view themselves through the lens of pop culture: as obviously moral, righteous and caring individuals engaged in the noble pursuit of science, art and compassion for the world.

      Moreover, unless you went to Bob Jones or BYU, you can’t be a Republican with a college degree without having been absolutely inundated with left-wing ideas and thought process. I don’t think many Democrats really understand that to be a Republican on a typical public college campus is about equivalent to being a gay man in small town America in 1940. Even if there are whispers and rumors about your identity, you still do everything possible to suppress it and not let it leak out in “polite company”, lest you bring down shame and opprobrium upon yourself and your friends. A Berkeley-educated Republican knows what Democrats believe like a gay man at Bob Jones knows what Christian conservatives believe: from the experience of having it surround them as oppressive groupthink for four years straight, fearing being outed all the while.

      Since the people who write opinion pieces online tend to overwhelmingly be the college-educated set, writing for fellow college-educated readers, this shared experience is going to be pretty common on the Right and you’ll see a lot less ink devoted to questions about why the opposition could possibly believe what they do.

      • 1soru1 says:

        > I don’t think many Democrats really understand that to be a Republican on a typical public college campus is about equivalent to being a gay man in small town America in 1940.

        Have you considered the possibility that the reason most Democrats don’t understand that is because it is not true?

        Firstly, in 2017, never mind 1940, you can literally be sent to a camp and tortured with electroshock therapy for being gay.

        Secondly, the overwhelming majority of Republican voters either never went to college, or did so before 1990. So nothing that happened in college in the last 25 years can have actually been personally experienced by any of them.

        Not discounting that there are people who were deeply wounded by some clumsy kid playing with Baby’s First Politics Kit, the Democrat’s explanation of ‘they read some stuff in media funded by a billionaire that successfully flattered them’ does seem to match the facts better.

        • Nornagest says:

          Republicans skew older and less educated, but the gaps aren’t that big — we’re talking about a fifteen-point spread for age and a twelve-point spread for college education, according to the Google search I just did. Young college-educated Republicans are not a small group, and they’re going to look even less small on the Internet, which tends to magnify softer voices and where most people are young and college-educated or college-bound anyway.

          And can I just say that the evil-wizard theory of politics is… kinda condescending? It is when it’s right-wing folks clutching their pearls about George Soros allegedly funding every protest that makes the news, and it still is when it’s left-wing folks clutching their pearls about the Kochs or whoever’s allegedly pulling Trump’s strings this week.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Have you considered the possibility that the reason most Democrats don’t understand that is because it is not true? […] Firstly, in 2017, never mind 1940, you can literally be sent to a camp and tortured with electroshock therapy for being gay.

          If you genuinely think this, then Cypren’s analogy is truer than you think, or even untrue in the other direction. AFAIK, no one’s getting sent to electroshock camp against their will in 2017. If they are, then I suspect it’s about as rare as a conservative professor getting hazed by his liberal colleagues in 2017.

          Secondly, the overwhelming majority of Republican voters either never went to college, or did so before 1990.

          To the extent this is true, a common counter is that it’s because leftists ran them out. Not physically, of course, but rather with mockery such as

          people who were deeply wounded by some clumsy kid playing with Baby’s First Politics Kit

          Seriously?

          • 1soru1 says:

            > AFAIK, no one’s getting sent to electroshock camp against their will in 2017.

            I suppose that is possible; the easily accessible evidence[1] only goes up to 2016. But only 5 states ban committing a minor to such a camp.

            I’ll concede actual electroshock is rare, but not non-existent, now.

            > To the extent this is true, a common counter is that it’s because leftists ran them out.

            Is aging by 15 years a common response to sarcasm in your universe? Really, you are actually claiming Republicans, en masse, are qualifying for university, but being bullied into quitting before ever meeting another Republican on campus [2]?

            Scale aside, if you do think a little bit of less than perfect politeness can have such a disparate impact, would you concede that there might possibly be something in the idea of racism having similar effects, even when not backed by KKK-style organised violence? Or is there something specific to Republicans that make them the only minority that really suffers true oppression?

            [1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/15/gay-conversion-therapy-republican-party-platform

            [2] http://www.crnc.org/about/

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            [T]he easily accessible evidence[1] only goes up to 2016

            That article claims it “still persists in many parts”, while naming no parts. This is barely evidence.

            Really, you are actually claiming Republicans, en masse, are qualifying for university, but being bullied into quitting before ever meeting another Republican on campus [2]?

            I’m claiming they get socially pressed out of expressing their political views, and out of getting degrees in social sciences.

            If you’re saying Republicans are socially fine because a social group for college Republicans exists, then by your argument, the groups leftists and liberals are claiming are oppressed are doing fine, too.

            If you do think a little bit of less than perfect politeness can have such a disparate impact, would you concede that there might possibly be something in the idea of racism having similar effects[?]

            I’ll agree this kind of pressure exists, sure. But if we’re agreeing this pressure exists, then you’re agreeing to Cypren’s analogy above.

          • John Schilling says:

            I suppose that is possible; the easily accessible evidence[1] only goes up to 2016. But only 5 states ban committing a minor to such a camp.

            Your “accessible evidence” is talking about camps where people have to listen to therapists tell them a lot of bunk about how homosexuality makes them a perverted wrongthinking deviant, not camps where people are subject to electric shocks. My spending about as much time trying to track this down as I care to, suggests that electric shocks for gay people were a thing until the 1970s, when the APA took away the legal and professional cover for such practices by removing homosexuality from the DSM. I have found exactly one unsubstantiated and anonymous claim of electric shocks in post-1980 conversion therapy, among numerous deceptively-worded claims of the form “conversion therapy is a Bad Thing that is Happening Now and which has included Electric Shocks”.

            If you tell me that gay teenagers are being forced to listen to institutionalized bigoted rants, I will agree that this is a bad thing and entertain possible solutions. If you tell me that gay teenagers could be given electric shocks in 1940, thus Brinkley’s comparison is out of line, then you score a point in that debate. But if you tell me that gay teenagers here and now are being given electric shocks and I find that gay teenagers here and now are actually being given bigoted rants, I will consider you to be without credibility on this subject and will likely avoid any subsequent discussion of this or any related matter with you. You may well believe what you are saying, but you haven’t supported what you are saying and I don’t believe that you can.

          • Civilis says:

            If you tell me that gay teenagers are being forced to listen to institutionalized bigoted rants, I will agree that this is a bad thing and entertain possible solutions.

            It’s possible to dislike the idea of forcing gay teenagers to listen to bigoted rants and also dislike the idea of forcing incoming conservative college students to listen to bigoted rants by progressives on college campuses.

            If anything, I don’t think Cypren’s going far enough; the right doesn’t have a problem hearing political views from the left. Liberty University, one of the go-to schools for progressives making fun of evangelical Christian higher educational institutions, invited Bernie Sanders to speak in the run up to the 2016 election, and he was politely received. FIRE keeps a decent database of how often speakers get blocked or protested (https://www.thefire.org/resources/disinvitation-database/), for those that want to look at the numbers.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Having looked into it in a bit more detail, it does look like any current use of actual electroshock in the USA is more ‘individual crime’ than ‘accepted practice’.

            Lets hope it stays that way.

          • suntzuanime says:

            any current use

            ಠ_ಠ

          • Having looked into it in a bit more detail, it does look like any current use of actual electroshock in the USA is more ‘individual crime’ than ‘accepted practice’.

            Does that conclusion make you less willing to trust whatever sources of information your previous opinion was based on?

            This is a general point, not limited to this particular controversy. I have an old blog post which claims to prove, with evidence easily available, that one source of information on environmental issues is dishonest. A response I often get from people unwilling to either concede that it’s true or rebut the argument is that the conclusion he was arguing for is true.

            That’s relevant to that particular conclusion, but it’s irrelevant to my point, which is that that source of information should not be trusted and other sources on the same side that treat that source as reliable should be viewed with at least some suspicion.

            Similarly, of course, on the other side of that argument or other arguments. Someone here was just offering evidence of something odd about an article by Tol that I have sometimes cited. Assuming there is not some explanation I haven’t thought of, it is evidence that he is either careless or dishonest, I think probably careless, and either is a reason to be less willing to rely on his work.

          • Anonymous says:

            any current use

            ಠ_ಠ

            Does that shock you?

        • Deiseach says:

          This is why I don’t give any credibility to any claims about the suffering of gay/trans teens:

          Firstly, in 2017, never mind 1940, you can literally be sent to a camp and tortured with electroshock therapy for being gay.

          It is pointed out that no, this does not happen.

          I’ll concede actual electroshock is rare, but not non-existent, now.

          In other words, not rowing back at all on “tortured with electroshock therapy for being gay”.

          I’ve seen way too much of this “Pence wants to government fund forced conversion camps where gay teens will be tortured” nonsense floating around. If anyone could come up with solid “there was this camp and yes they did use electric shock to torture people” (not even in aversion therapy, which I am not enthusiastic over, but as torture) then please provide it. I’m reading about the allegations but I’m not seeing any backing up, just “of course the Evil Conservative Fundamentalist Zealots would torture heretics gays”.

          • random832 says:

            If anyone could come up with solid “there was this camp and yes they did use electric shock to torture people” (not even in aversion therapy, which I am not enthusiastic over, but as torture) then please provide it.

            “Aversion therapy” for something that is not wrong and without the “patient”‘s direct consent is torture, and it is obviously what people are talking about.

          • rlms says:

            It is clear that 1soru1 considers forced electroshock therapy (not unreasonably) to be torture, quibbling about the definition seems pointless and irrelevant. In any case, the claim as written is true: forced electroshock therapy is used (or at least was used in the distant past of 2015) in China. Deciding that you literally don’t believe *any* claims about the suffering of gay teens on the basis that a false claim (that no-one has actually made) seems a bit silly. If I claim that Stalin ate babies and kittens, will you ardently defend him?

          • Nornagest says:

            If I claim that Stalin ate babies and kittens, will you ardently defend him?

            Yes, but I have irrational urges to be contrarian sometimes.

          • Jiro says:

            forced electroshock therapy is used (or at least was used in the distant past of 2015) in China.

            The context is the treatment of gays in the US, or at least the West.

            China is about as relevant as giving examples of gays being executed in Saudi Arabia or Nigeria, and if you’re actually going to use countries like those as examples, there are dictatorships where supporting the equivalent of the Republicans (or Democrats, or anyone except the dictator) can get you tortured or executed too.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It is clear that 1soru1 considers forced electroshock therapy (not unreasonably) to be torture, quibbling about the definition seems pointless and irrelevant.

            Hmm? Deiseach’s point was (or at least seemed to be) that forced electroshock therapy for homosexuality doesn’t occur now. The truth or falsehood of this point has nothing to do with whether or not electroshock therapy counts as torture.

            In any case, the claim as written is true: forced electroshock therapy is used (or at least was used in the distant past of 2015) in China.

            The conversation was pretty clearly talking about the situation in America.

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X
            I read “not even in aversion therapy, which I am not enthusiastic over, but as torture” as being about the categorisation of the therapy as torture. You are right that that is irrelevant if the therapy isn’t happening at all, but Deiseach seems to be hedging her bets and preemptively disqualifying hypothetical non-torturous therapy. The point about China is that if we are going to argue about whether electroshock therapy is torture, then the statement is technically true (in China) in that pedantic way anyway.

      • rahien.din says:

        To be a Republican on a typical public college campus is about equivalent to being a gay man in small town America in 1940. You do everything possible to suppress it and not let it leak out in “polite company”, lest you bring down shame and opprobrium upon yourself and your friends

        Shame and oppobrium were just the beginning for gay men in small-town America in the 1940’s. They could be physically beaten. They could be refused service at restaurants. People suspected them of being sexual predators or child molesters. They could go to jail if they were caught having homosexual sex. The cops would break up their parties and nightclubs. Some of them were killed.

        I daresay the cops have never forcibly broken up a meeting of the Young Republicans, or arrested two young men discovered in a dorm room reading the Drudge Report.

        I don’t doubt that you believe and feel what you say you do. But you’re either making a knowingly irresponsible comparison, or you don’t know much about the difficulties of being an actual oppressed minority. I am guessing the latter which, to me, is just more evidence that conservatives really are good people who would make good decisions if they had all the pertinent information. IE, the empathy gap is probably just a logical-priors gap.

        And maybe that is why conservatives have such difficulty when they find themselves in this situation. They genuinely believe all these bad things are either not happening, or are not really as bad as they have been told. So when something relatively less severe happens to them personally, it genuinely seems to them to be equivalent to, say, the experience of a gay man in small-town America in the 1940’s.

        And that’s what college is good for – giving you new information that is a struggle to incorporate without broadening your perspectives. If it is true that conservatives fled from college rather than meet that challenge, then yes, that kind of cowardice deserves to be openly mocked.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          And that’s what college is good for – giving you new information that is a struggle to incorporate without broadening your perspectives. If it is true that conservatives fled from college rather than meet that challenge, then yes, that kind of cowardice deserves to be openly mocked.

          There’s a total disconnect here with what you said before. It’s true that what conservatives in college face is nowhere near as bad as what gay people did, but in no way does this mean that the mockery and derision (and, you know, violent protests) they are subjected to in college are product of they having to face challenging perspectives, rather than simple tribalism by the dominant faction in those spaces.

          • rahien.din says:

            It’s true that what conservatives in college face is nowhere near as bad as what gay people did, but in no way does this mean that the difficulty conservatives are subjected to in college is the product of having to face challenging perspectives, rather than simple tribalism by the dominant faction in those spaces.

            An appropriately challenging perspective could be delivered on the spearpoint of tribalism, and it would be a mistake to discard the truth for its delivery. Consider a stereotypical liberal X stranded in the backwoods with a stereotypical conservative Y. X needs to learn from Y, or they may not survive. This is independently true, regardless of how derisive, smug, or exasperated Y may be at X’s lack of survival skills.

            So I think your objection amounts at best to tone policing. And it smuggles in the idea that liberal ideas are not worth learning.

            FWIW the conservative students have things to teach the liberal students. Polarization implicates both poles.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            So I think your objection amounts at best to tone policing.

            You mean like it’s a bad thing?

            And it smuggles in the idea that liberal ideas are not worth learning.

            Why? If anything, not being an asshole to someone is far more likely to get them to accept new information and change their views long term.

          • rahien.din says:

            Why does it smuggle in the idea that liberal ideas are not worth learning?

            CMIIW, but 1. your premise seems to be that the difficulties faced by conservative students are either challengingly leftist perspectives, or they are base tribalism, and 2. your argument chooses between those exclusive options by describing these difficulties as being mocked, attacked, and derided, which can only satisfy the definition of tribalism.

            If anything, not being an asshole to someone is far more likely to get them to accept new information and change their views long term.

            I don’t know that this is necessarily true.

            Personally, my largest paradigm shifts have resulted from arguments with genuinely derisive assholes who openly mocked me (and whom I derided right back), arguments in which I had to refine my own thinking to compete with rather uncharitable people at high speed. Debating with assholes requires absolutely airtight arguments. There’s no room for error or vacillation. And that is really what changes your thinking – doing it for yourself. Moreover they won’t let it go when they say something correct, and your heightened scrutiny of them won’t let you ignore it, either.

            I’m actually grateful for the obstinate, intelligent, smugly nitpicking jerks I have encountered.

            In contrast, a nice person will give you the benefit of the doubt, will try not to offend by hammering your poor argumentation, or will not insist on perfect clarity. It can get sloppy.

            I think the secret is not necessarily non-asshole behavior, but engagement. Treating them as a viable opponent / valuable target and locking in. EG, not blowing off the other side as agent of the orthodoxy or avatar of the rube.

            Moreover, being nice isn’t a metric upon which people evaluate their own tactics, it is the end toward which they wish their opponents to strive.

            But I don’t know. You may be right. And you may insist on the undeniable importance of things such as charity and I will totally agree.

        • Matt M says:

          I daresay the cops have never forcibly broken up a meeting of the Young Republicans

          No, but antifa has and the cops (which the republicans are often forced to pay for) stand there and do nothing to prevent it.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          I guess the worst you can say about small-town Americans in the 1940s is that they gave gays even more new information than colleges have been giving Republicans. (Prior to this descent into euphemism, you were making a pretty good point.)

          ETA: Teaching about the existence of oppression (of whatever level of oppressiveness) is certainly something a college can do. But it shouldn’t be a lab session.

        • Nornagest says:

          giving you new information that is a struggle to incorporate without broadening your perspectives

          Sure, that’s the doctrine. But when the political significance of all that new information lies on a spectrum ranging from Bernie Sanders to Pol Pot, I have a hard time believing that “broadening your perspectives” is really the goal.

          There seems to be an assumption here that incoming students are all feckless hicks who’re still picking hay out of their hair at the end of freshmen orientation, and it just ain’t so. We all know the political correlates of youth and parental education; more often than not, the euphemistically named core requirements of your average school are going to be reinforcing incoming students’ political preconceptions, not challenging them. Certainly some kids with conservative leanings are going to get caught up too, but that’s not the norm.

        • Cypren says:

          Shame and oppobrium were just the beginning for gay men in small-town America in the 1940’s. They could be physically beaten. They could be refused service at restaurants. People suspected them of being sexual predators or child molesters. They could go to jail if they were caught having homosexual sex. The cops would break up their parties and nightclubs. Some of them were killed.

          Wow, I had no idea it was that bad. It sure is a good thing no one would dare beat up Republicans or refuse to service them at businesses.

          I will agree that the state oppression is a significant difference and makes the comparison hyperbolic. I was talking about the social experience because it was the best point of comparison I could make.

          I strongly disagree that college is about “giving new information that is a struggle to incorporate”. At least at elite residential colleges, it is about imposing an orthodoxy of left-wing thought on the students. For existing left-wing students, this is just confirmation of their beliefs. For right-wing students, it’s an ultimatum to join the herd or flunk your classes.

          The idea that right-wing students “fled from college rather than meet the challenge” is laughable and a strong indication of just how little you understand of the experience of being marginalized when it doesn’t align with your neat preconceptions. It’s like suggesting that gay men don’t go to Bob Jones not because the school is actively hostile to them but because they’re “afraid of new perspectives”.

          • Urstoff says:

            At least at elite residential colleges, it is about imposing an orthodoxy of left-wing thought on the students. For existing left-wing students, this is just confirmation of their beliefs. For right-wing students, it’s an ultimatum to join the herd or flunk your classes.

            What do you mean “it is about”? Most college students don’t engage in campus political activities either way, and classes that require you to accede to certain politics to pass are a very rare exception and only occur in the department where you would expect them (X studies, maybe some sociology or English classes). And even in classes that are explicitly political, most faculty are professional enough to grade fairly as long as the student has put thought into a subject. Don’t let the outrageous stories you hear convince you that it’s the norm. Stuff like that gets reported on because it’s the exception.

            It is true at a lot of colleges that the political culture, insofar as there is one, is a monoculture, but that hardly means that college is “about imposing an orthodoxy of left-wing thought on the students”.

          • rahien.din says:

            I strongly disagree that college is about “giving new information that is a struggle to incorporate”. At least at elite residential colleges, it is about imposing an orthodoxy of left-wing thought on the students. For existing left-wing students, this is just confirmation of their beliefs. For right-wing students, it’s an ultimatum to join the herd or flunk your classes.

            By describing liberal ideas as “orthodoxy,” you smuggle in the premise that liberal ideas have no worth to conservatives. If liberals have something to teach conservatives, then your objection is invalid. For instance, I have replaced any of your pejoratives with “mathematics” in the following paragraph :

            “I strongly disagree that college is about’giving new information that is a struggle to incorporate’. At least at elite residential colleges, it is about imposing mathematics on the students. For mathematics-believing students, this is just confirmation of their beliefs. For non-mathematics-believing students, it’s an ultimatum to join the herd or flunk your classes.”

            Just as your argument is entirely nonsensical when applied to concepts of undeniable worth, it is only valid when applied to left-wing thought if we presuppose that left-wing thought is valueless.

            You don’t understand of the experience of being marginalized [but I do.] I continue to insist that the social experience of being a Republican on a college campus is equivalent to the social experience of being a gay man in 1940’s small-town America.

            On one hand you want to say that leftist ideas are mere orthodoxy to which you have been unjustly subjected. On the other hand, you persist in the kind of uninformed and imprecise comparison that leftist teachings are designed to kill with daylight.

            So you may be the exact person who needs/needed the leftist teachings you so deride.

          • Cypren says:

            @rahien.din: And by comparing leftist ideology to mathematics, you’re explicitly stating your premise that it’s an irrefutable basic truth of the universe and undeniable fact.

            Yes, there are some valuable nuggets of truth in left-wing teachings, just as there are in right-wing teachings. There are also valuable nuggets of truth in most religious teachings. That doesn’t mean that being subject to a religious orthodoxy that immediately shames and punishes anyone who questions any part of its doctrine is healthy or justifies its absolutism.

            In any case, I’m withdrawing from this conversation. Your continued insistence that it’s impossible to be marginalized or oppressed unless people fit into one of your predetermined victim categories, and that anyone who says otherwise is clearly just an ignorant savage in need of your gospel, is tiresome and pointless to argue against.

          • rahien.din says:

            Yes, there are some valuable nuggets of truth in left-wing teachings, just as there are in right-wing teachings.

            Yes! Agreed on both counts!

            Surely you would have agreed that if there are items of truth within leftist and rightist teachings, then it is not only non-oppressive to impose those truths on students, but outright negligence not to do so. In which case the whole “leftist orthodoxy = uniform oppression” idea is sort of bunk and we could talk about more interesting things.

            We could have discussed, then, how to properly transmit these truths to the students who need them, and the institution’s responsibility to know a priori the truth value of teachings in their curriculum, and what would constitute imposition by the institution of oppressive orthodoxy, and what would constitute obstinacy of a rightist/leftist student upon exposure to a leftist/rightist teaching.

            So it is unfortunate that you left the conversation when we finally got somewhere – all that effort and then off you go. Sorry you feel that way.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            We could have discussed, then, how to properly transmit these truths to the students who need them, and the institution’s responsibility to know a priori the truth value of teachings in their curriculum, and what would constitute imposition by the institution of oppressive orthodoxy, and what would constitute obstinacy of a rightist/leftist student upon exposure to a leftist/rightist teaching.

            …Well then, in that case, we would be back to the claim that these sorts of questions are only being raised in one direction. Academia seems to only ever be asking “what’s the matter with Kansas?” and never “what’s the matter with Berkeley?”. Bad arguments from the right are attacked efficiently; bad ones from the left are conspicuously untended.

            The trouble with your arguments up to this point were that they appeared to strongly imply that lefty ideas were uniformly good, and righty ideas were uniformly dismissable. If you’d started with your last comment, I think the thread would probably have left both of you better off.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @rahien.din – “In which case the whole “leftist orthodoxy = uniform oppression” idea is sort of bunk and we could talk about more interesting things.”

            Except that right-wing truths aren’t being inculcated, and are in fact actively suppressed, while left-wing falsehoods are pushed with mindless fanaticism, with predictably horrifying results.

          • rahien.din says:

            All : I agree that there are teachings of value from the right and also from the left. (I probably have more to learn from the right.)

            My intention was not to establish that leftist teachings are inherently superior to rightist teachings – that would have been rather hypocritical – but I can see how that would have been a reasonable interpretation, especially in the context of this debate.

            Insofar as I may say it, it is certainly possible to be ideologically marginalized as the member of the non-dominant tribe, and this is to the detriment of both tribes.

            I totally withdraw any implicit or explicit suggestions that leftist teachings are en bloc superior to rightist teachings. My apologies.

      • Urstoff says:

        I went to a major state university for undergrad, a major private university for grad school, and now work at a large public university, and there did not / does not seem to be any persecution or suppression or Republicans at any of them. Lots of dumb political things happen at universities, but to compare Republicans at colleges with gay men in the 1940’s is ridiculous.

        • James Miller says:

          How many open Republicans where in your schools’ sociology, women’s studies, or English departments? How many Republican students felt obligated, when in High School, to do social justice type activities to get a better resume for college?

          • Chalid says:

            C’mon, if someone said “there aren’t many blacks in _____, so _____ must be suppressing them”, many possible responses would surely come to mind, right? And I’m guessing that the number of people who felt obligated to do social justice type activities to get into college is very low, considering that there are a vast number of non-social-justice ways to polish a college resume.

          • James Miller says:

            >C’mon, if someone said “there aren’t many blacks in _____, so _____ must be suppressing them”, many possible responses would surely come to mind, right?

            If this was a field where many openly expressed hatred for blacks my first response would be discrimination.

          • Urstoff says:

            Any answer to those questions would not make the analogy legitimate.

          • Nornagest says:

            How many Republican students felt obligated, when in High School, to do social justice type activities to get a better resume for college?

            I’d buy claims of institutional bias in e.g. sociology, but I don’t think this happens very much. Most of the extracurriculars I saw people doing when I was in school were either school-run (debate team, student government, etc.) or the kind of charity work that your average church would be just as happy with as your average social justice organization.

            Working for some left-wing cause was an option, but it didn’t seem to be a very common one.

        • Agree and disagree:

          I’m a libertarian (and atheist), not a Republican, and I teach at a Jesuit run university whose ideologies are Catholicism and soft leftism, and I’ve gotten no hassle on either. On the other hand, the student senate just voted to deny recognition to a proposed student club that was pretty clearly conservative free market types, after hearing a presentation about Milo’s antics. They have a wide range of student organizations of various leftist sorts.

          I am told that conservative or libertarian law school students (I teach in the law school) get considerable negative pressure from other students if they state their views. The report of one of my children on an elite liberal arts college was that it was a left wing monoculture. There was a combined libertarian-Republican club because there were not enough people willing to join to let either group form an organization on its own, and the only people willing to openly support such views were the sorts who enjoyed antagonizing other people–watered down Milo types.

          The general impression was that both faculty and students were heavily left, but the faculty much more tolerant of other views than the students.

  17. Tekhno says:

    Discussion board website design concept

    Account registration:

    Email for regular. Email plus card for premium.

    Post limits:

    Twenty posts per day: free.

    1 cent charge on every post over 20 per day limit up to 100 posts per day where it transfers to 10 cents per day.

    Making a thread costs 25 cents tax.

    Posting images: 1 cent charge.

    Topic system:

    To make a thread requires that pre-set tags or user tags are applied. This creates user customizable boards by searching for and combining tags. If things are tagged incorrectly, mods will move it to the correct “board”.

    Mods only moderate to move things to the correct tag, and delete illegal things.

    Thread system:

    In threads, the user who created the thread is the in-thread moderator and he has the power to set rules for his thread, and remove any troublesome parties.

    Users can give the moderator reputation points in response to actions in exchange for 0.1 cents per reputation point moved up or down.

    Thread owners can sell off their threads to other users.

    Reputation and battle system:

    If the reputation points of a user become negative, then he enters the weak status.

    In weak status, other users can select attacks against his thread/s in a JRPG like manner, which will deplete the health of the thread, allowing the user with the highest ratio of frequency/to damage against the thread to claim it once its health has been reduce to zero.

    Users who are attacking a thread, themselves enter weak status regardless of reputation, and can only exit weak status after a cool-off in attacking for 24 hours.

    Thread owners can protect their threads with barriers that cost money, and everyone can buy various spells and defenses that have complex strategic mechanics like Pokemon.

    If the Thread is defeated it can be claimed as stated. If the thread owner is defeated as well he loses all of his threads, so he must flee the thread and escape to his user profile if all of his threads are gone, otherwise his user profile will be killed (he won’t be able to post for 3 days).

    If users are killed they can’t post for three days.

    Special effects:

    Random chance 1/1000 per month: a random thread will become afflicted with a disease that spreads by contact with users, and causes glitches, scrambled posts, scary visual illusions and so on.

    Every six months there is an earthquake that lasts an hour and makes it so that posts shoot about the screen making the site impossible to use. After it is over, the post order in threads has been scrambled.

    Every year, a giant marches through the most popular tags and crushes all the threads, deleting them. The giant can only be killed if users pool their resources to create a mega-bomb attack.

    Every two years: the site is replaced with a farming mini-game for a week.

    Every four years: the site is replaced with a classic arcade racing game for a week.

    Five year point: All monetary restrictions are fully relaxed, and everyone’s reputation is set to -1000 for a full month.

    Ten years: The site is completely shut down and replaced with the image of a middle finger for the next ten years and then that is shut down too.

    Long term funding scheme:

    Eccentric millionaire. Site is fully funded for ten years.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      I’m confused, is this a an idea for a discussion forum, or for a text-based sim city clone?

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Stop trying to revive your business model, Lowtax.

    • Wrong Species says:

      If there is one thing app makers have learned, it’s that you don’t charge people until you get a sizeable base. Any website that charges people without an established brand is doomed from the start.

    • Jugemu says:

      All else aside, these kind of nit-picking nano-transactions are probably going to turn people off way too much.

      • Tekhno says:

        One of my pet obsessions is somehow becoming so rich I can throw money into laughable projects designed to piss people off and confuse them, making a massive scene before I go out of business. I want to make the world’s worst most crazy social network. There’s a Louis CK sketch that expresses a similar idea.

        Now, are there any examples of anything like this actually happening? I guess people who want to do this would never get rich enough in the first place. It does strike me how boring and sane our billionaires are though. I guess that’s the free market working as it should.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’ve never upgraded to, or bought, premium anythings ever (LiveJournal annoyed me by constant nagging for this) even with the carrot of “and you can award this, buy that, get the other” just by spending a teeny amount of real world money on in-game gold.

      So no, I’d either stick to the free basic can’t do anything account for this, and if the nagging about “sign up for premium account! buy gold!” got too annoying, I’d leave it, or I wouldn’t play in the first place.

  18. Paul Brinkley says:

    Last OT, HeelBearCub brought up a rumored EO by Trump that would allow discrimination (of homosexuals) for religious reasons. He thought it ought to require a public declaration of said belief (“make public their religious objection”). Thread went a few ways. (I agree with David Friedman that it shouldn’t matter whether the belief is religious, logistic, or whatever. The catch is, everyone will know you did it.) Others responded that it was tantamount to a registry. This much doesn’t surprise me.

    What surprises me is that no one seems to be looking at this as the state’s problem – a tradeoff the state, and therefore the people bestowing it with its authority, has to make between being fair to one set of people and being fair to another (possibly overlapping) set of people.

    If you implement a regulation, you can apply it equally to all individuals, or permit some exemption. If an individual defies the regulation, the defiance and its restitution ought to be on record; since the people (are supposed to) own the state, the people are entitled to consult the record, and therefore the state is obligated to make the record reasonably available.* “Reasonable” today means digital, meaning anything you can consult, can and will be consulted as fast as a computer can manage.**

    Therefore, the tradeoff I see here is between fairness and privacy. To put it another way: the only way to distribute scarce resources is to know who has less, and there’s no way to stop people from discriminating based on who they know is pleading an exemption. Some people may wish to boycott a business because it has a religious exemption. Others may wish to not hire certain people because of some social stigma.

    If the state (again, meaning the people) don’t want this discrimination to be so easy, then that’s an indication that that exemption isn’t worth the cost. And if the regulation is unacceptable without that exemption, then that regulation isn’t worth the cost.

    *Imagine for now that there’s no such thing as classified information.

    **There may be a technological out here. Databases are typically indexed for certain queries; the main one here is “is X exempt?” while “give me a list of all exempt X” is the query we’re afraid of. There’s no compelling reason to index for the latter, meaning it may be impractical. Someone may, of course, compile a second database that slowly crawls the former and indexes the latter, but the state is not compelled to divert resources to that.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Side note on employment contracts from that subthread: I believe they get too complicated in practice for any applicant to read and understand to their satisfaction. They’d need a lawyer for many of them, and anyone dealing with this tends to get savvy enough to realize that should a court case develop, the meaning of the contract is likely to turn more on who spent the most money on lawyers plus who got the best sob story in the press. I don’t like this, but I see it as an inexorable artifact of the way contracts are created.

      It’d be nicer, IMO, if we had a framework for formal specifications of contracts, such that they could be understood by a computer program, automatically warning applicants of anything they feel applies especially to them.

    • Jiro says:

      What surprises me is that no one seems to be looking at this as the state’s problem – a tradeoff the state, and therefore the people bestowing it with its authority, has to make between being fair to one set of people and being fair to another (possibly overlapping) set of people.

      You can’t look at it like that unless you admit that there’s a tradeoff. The argument from the left-wing side was to suggest (without necessarily actually saying) that there was no negative effect to being put on a registry at all–that is, they did not admit there was a tradeoff.

      (Given the “suggest without saying” part, I suspected some insincerity there, but taking it at face value, that was the idea.)

  19. AnonEEmous says:

    Off-topic but what do people think about this:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4192182/World-leaders-duped-manipulated-global-warming-data.html

    I will grant that it is the daily mail. But assuming that they haven’t outright fabricated or brutally twisted the testimony of a one John Bates, and it seems like they haven’t…this is big, right?

    • cassander says:

      >this is big, right?

      won’t be. it’ll get swept under the rug as “technically wrong but in service of a good cause” like climategate. Or the holodomor.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The whole “pause” thing made a mockery of integrity in science. The frantic game of “Let’s go look for reasons to allow us to adjust the data so the pause goes away” is the opposite of good science. Any further shenanigans just add insult to injury.

      At this point, the global temperature datasets are so compromised that no valid conclusions can be drawn from them.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I mean, it’s earthshaking if you think that climate scientists are perfect angels with direct access to Holy Truth and that everyone who disagrees with them on anything is in league with Satan. The attempt by the left to turn Science into a dogmatic orthodoxy kind of glosses over the messiness of actual scientific practice. Sometimes people do sloppy work and write shitty papers. Ideally, then someone else does better work and calls out their shitty paper, and science advances. Unfortunately, in climate science, if you aren’t careful, disagreeing with someone’s shitty paper will get you labeled a Denier and wreck your career. So the ordinary corrective process doesn’t work well and we end up with “whistleblowers” going to the press and saying “hey, scientists are fallible”.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        But that’s not the only thing about it, right.

        If the pause-busting paper is wrong, then isn’t the pause real? If it is, then a linear increase in fossil fuels burned and greenhouse gases released doesn’t correlate to any kind of temperature increase at all.

        So what’s the remaining theory? The ocean is absorbing all the temperature, even though in previous generations both it and the land warmed up? Spooky Scary Critical Mass? “Correlation doesn’t equal causation”, meaning that the earth should’ve been cooling, but global warming perfectly counterbalanced that cooling? Maybe some of those are even true, but they’re unlikely and extremely hard sells to the general public.

        • suntzuanime says:

          If the pause-busting paper is wrong, then isn’t the pause real?

          No, that’s not how evidence works at all. A shitty paper doesn’t prove anything one way or the other.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            OK, I get that. But here’s the thing: right now, the evidence for the pause is pretty strong, and this paper was supposed to change that.

            That’s a big deal because, assuming that the pause is real, that would pretty much invalidate climate change as a theory, or at least do heavy, heavy damage to it, right? I noted some forms it could still exist in, but like I said – they’re weak and hard sells (the hard sell outstrips their weakness, I think, due to psychological factors and normal flaws in perception, but they’re still weak).

            Obviously the paper falling doesn’t in and of itself validate the pause. But it does remove the only serious piece of evidence currently obstructing it – and if the pause is probably true, then that’s big news.

            So: discuss, I guess.

          • suntzuanime says:

            It indicates that their models aren’t fully capable of predicting warming. It invalidates the idea that climatology is Infallible Marxist Science, which people were irresponsibly selling it as and stoning to death anyone who disagreed, but it doesn’t invalidate the underlying ideas.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            OK but doesn’t it actually imply that models, or indeed the theory itself, aren’t capable of capturing warming almost at all

            Like I get the most basic level, and that’s what you’re giving me. Thank you for that. But I’m looking for specifics. If the pause is real, in what form can climate change still exist as a viable scientific theory? Are there any other reasons to doubt it, and how strong are they?

          • Tekhno says:

            @AnonEEmous

            If the pause is real, in what form can climate change still exist as a viable scientific theory?

            Well, you already said:

            So what’s the remaining theory? The ocean is absorbing all the temperature, even though in previous generations both it and the land warmed up? Spooky Scary Critical Mass? “Correlation doesn’t equal causation”, meaning that the earth should’ve been cooling, but global warming perfectly counterbalanced that cooling? Maybe some of those are even true, but they’re unlikely and extremely hard sells to the general public.

            Doesn’t matter if they’re unlikely if they are all that remains, and it doesn’t matter if they are a hard sell to the public. Science is science. It can be as nuanced and complicated as the truth is.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Uh, Tekhno. If the theories are unlikely to be true, then it absolutely matters if they remain.

            The thing is that most of those theories are there to explain why we haven’t seen global warming with the assumption that it exists. But if all of those theories make no sense, then it makes much more sense to question if global warming really exists, yes?

            And of course from a consequential sense it matters tremendously whether the theories are hard sells or not. Especially if the hardness causes scientists to peel off. Without a scientist consensus, whether it is true or not, global warming as a theory will crumble.

          • Tekhno says:

            Right. I was under the impression that since CO2 is a greenhouse gas, global warming has to be true, given rises in CO2, so all that’s left are explanations for the pause in a process that is definitely occurring.

            Looking at David Friedman’s post, he says that even this isn’t true, so that would change things.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            If the pause is real, in what form can climate change still exist as a viable scientific theory?

            It’s not whether the pause is real, it’s whether the pause was real. It’s not a thing any more because there’s been another super ENSO and so the dumb skeptic tactic of setting the start date at the last super ENSO doesn’t work.

            I’m 1000% sure that 2017 will feature all sorts of “record temperature drop” articles in the Daily Sun-Express Telegraph and in another decade or so we’ll hear about the pause again from the Clickbait-Industrial-Complex because 2015-2016 will likely be another local maxima on our ascending escalator.

            Frankly the Karl paper didn’t strike me as correct or incorrect as much as it was pointless. The difference between the ERSST v3 and v4 dataset was miniscule, but because it pushed the NCDC signal over that period from neutral to slightly positive, they wrote a whole other paper about it. (There’s some discussion in the article about their use of the GHCN-M v4 beta, but I think the land differences were even more ancillary and it was mostly the ocean record doing the pause-busting.)

            BEST has mostly confirmed the ERSST v4 adjustments, so this is the Daily Mail inflating some scientist’s internal gripes about data retention policies and their inference that paper was rushed for political reasons. The idea that Karl’s paper was rushed for political reasons is hardly unthinkable, and if so they accomplished their goal of headlines, but it didn’t actually add or subtract much from the scientific understanding of AGW, and the theory doesn’t rise or fall on the vagaries of decade-scale variability.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s not whether the pause is real, it’s whether the pause was real. It’s not a thing any more because there’s been another super ENSO and so the dumb skeptic tactic of setting the start date at the last super ENSO doesn’t work.

            What about the not-so-dumb skeptic tactic of plotting the data without the outliers and letting software determine whether there has been a statistically significant deviation from the prior trend?

            I’ve been doing that since 2014, IIRC, and consistently found a statistically significant pause from 2003-2004 to present. Whether I include the super ENSO years or not. Only if I exclude 1998 (outlier!) and include 2016 (warmest year ever!) can I make that inconvenient truth go away.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            What about the not-so-dumb skeptic tactic of plotting the data without the outliers and letting software determine whether there has been a statistically significant deviation from the prior trend?

            That would depend on the software, I would think.

          • My version of the experiment was a least squares straight line fit to data from 2002 to 2013. Slope was abut zero– a tiny bit negative. That was using the webbed NSA data for land+sea.

            I picked 2002 because, eyeballing the data, that appeared to be when the pause actually started.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            I picked 2002 because, eyeballing the data, that appeared to be when the pause actually started.

            Do you read Grant Foster’s climate blog? He’s done rather more than that in an attempt to prove himself wrong.

        • If the pause-busting paper is wrong, then isn’t the pause real? If it is, then a linear increase in fossil fuels burned and greenhouse gases released doesn’t correlate to any kind of temperature increase at all.

          We already know that it isn’t a simple relation, because there was a thirty year pause, with global temperatures constant to mildly declining, in the mid-20th century.

          A lot of people on both sides of the argument appear to think that the prediction of the theory is that current global temperature is a function of current CO2 concentration. That isn’t even close to correct.

          Long run equilibrium temperature is a function of CO2 concentration, if we imagine the latter staying constant for long enough. Roughly speaking, the rate of change of current temperature is a function of the difference between current temperature and long run equilibrium temperature at the current CO2 concentration.

          So if CO2 concentration jumps up, the result is not a change in temperature but a change in the rate at which temperature is changing. For the increase in CO2 over a year or two that’s a very small effect. Everyone agrees that there are other things also affecting global temperature, so it isn’t surprising if CO2 goes up this year and global temperature goes down.

          Over a long enough period the other things are expected to average out, so if global temperature is constant or falling for a long time (how long being something people disagree about) that’s evidence against AGW. But that would be true even if we were not increasing the CO2 concentration, since it’s already well above the level at which the current temperature would be equilibrium.

          I hope that makes it clearer–if not I’ll be happy to expand on it.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Like I said – it’s “correlation doesn’t equal causation”. Which is fair, epistemologically. But as you said, it grows weaker with each current year – and it is an extremely hard sell for people because people don’t think epistemologically.

            That’s especially true since the equilibrium temperature should be rising in a linear fashion due to linear CO2 increase. That means that there would need to be a constant and increasing cooling counter-balance in order to mask what was really going on, if you get what I’m saying. Obviously that’s not impossible, epistemologically, but it borders on the extremely unlikely.

        • As best I can tell, the claim is not that the pause busting paper is wrong but that it was not known to be right when it was published due to a variety of problems that had not been dealt with, hence publishing it then was irresponsible behavior motivated by a desire to influence the Paris talks. Supposedly a cleaned up version is going to be published, and for all we know it could give the same conclusion.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Maybe. Some of the criticisms I see him making of it are the same that other climate skeptics have made, such as engine data being used over buoy data. Obviously I’ll wait and see, but if said paper is honest and can’t refute the pause, or is dishonest, then things should come to a head.

          • I think the pause, if real, is evidence that the IPCC models are not very good, but it isn’t evidence against the greenhouse effect, since that can be confirmed in other ways.

            My preferred guess on what is happening is the combination of a rising trend to to AGW with a cyclic effect from some other cause, probably transfers of heat between atmosphere and ocean, with a period of sixty or seventy years. That explains the recent pause, the mid-century pause, and when the current warming trend started. And there is a published article offering a mechanism and evidence. I discuss it, and link to the article, here.

            One implication, if that is correct, is that the IPCC has probably overestimated climate sensitivity and thus the rate of warming, due to treating the period when the cyclic effect was reinforcing the upward trend as if it was due only to the trend.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > the IPCC has probably overestimated climate sensitivity and thus the rate of warming

            Actually an unknown cyclic effect would likely be very bad news, as the damage that would be done when the warming and cycle coincides would almost certainly exceed any recovery that might take place in the corresponding periods of less-then-trend warming.

            Wars that start may or may not continue, but glaciers melted will not freeze, crops that fail will stay non-viable, refugees will rarely return home.

          • random832 says:

            Actually an unknown cyclic effect would likely be very bad news

            I don’t really think you can justify this. Certainly the facts are “bad news” on an absolute scale, but they’re not really worse news than the previously held “global warming is always as fast as it is in what turns out was a cycle-reinforced phase”, which seems to have been all DavidFriedman was saying.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @1soru1

            Speaking of crops, did you know there’s currently a worldwide wheat surplus due to record harvests?

            https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-10/too-much-of-weed-that-feeds-forcing-wheat-farmers-to-other-crops

          • 1soru1 says:

            > global warming is always as fast as it is in what turns out was a cycle-reinforced phase

            That requires assuming that the IPCC only took data from a 10 year period to make their assessment. Which see